The Empire Strikes Back 104 – The Sack of Constantinople

17 May 1911

Senators,

On 17 April, X. Legio and XII. Legio pushed the eastern edge of the Pannonian front forward again. When this succeeded, XII. Legio did so yet again.

XXVI. Legio had been greatly reinforced in Asia Minor, and moved to help in Moldavia. While traveling past The City, Senator Palailogos took command of the legion.

We received word on 3 May that Our latest expedition had made it to the South Pole, beating all other expeditions. Truly they have displayed the results of Imperial persistence.

Elsewhere in the world, Khiva capitulated to Russia.

The Iberian front continues quite well.

As does the Moldavian front. In fact XXIV. Legio is leaving the front to clear Ukraine of Russian pan-nationalist rebels.

Hedjaz is also falling to the legions.

And the various enemy forces have not been able to break into Armenia.

However, the Pannonian front is at risk. While it has pressed German forces back, a British army is marching for the center of the line. If they have the same gas defenses as other rebel forces have had, then We will again have to choose between allowing the front to break or allowing rebels to go free.


Early May 1911

Summer was soon approaching Aeteorea, which meant colder climates and snow. Hairini’s brother, Anaru, her sister Hinewai and her elderly mother Anahera are soon approaching their first full year at Tipene’s camp. While people generally suffered under him, it was his former friends who got the most of it, as megalomania has caused him to ‘dominate’ over them. The Waata family were being forced to starve when they were called to see Tipene. Armed men violently grabbed the three and escorted them to his office. As they enter, Tipene turns around to face them.

“Haha, hello you,” he told them, as Anaru gave him a dirty gaze, while the two women glared at him angrily.

“Now, you must be wondering; what does Tipene want to do with you this time? Well, let me tell you! We’re currently expanding the camp, but we don’t think we’re gonna finish it before winter. But we’ve gotten soooo many more people here that we’re just forced to move you to the unfinished area. Hope the cold doesn’t kill ya!” he revealed, as Anaru struggled to get a word out.

“Y-you…..” Anaru tried to speak, as Tipene moved in closer to listen, “…..you manus rej.”

Tipene responded with a hard right punch, knocking Anaru unconscious. Hinewai screamed, before a guard forced his hand over her mouth.

“Move them to their new home. Make sure they have a cool time,” Tipene laughed, as the guards rolled their eyes. They dragged the three out of Tipene’s office to the new area, where their right arms were chained to the wall.

17 May 1911

“Hopefully, us reaching the South Pole first will show those against us that, even when under pressure, we can do anything!” Nestorius stated. Hairini smiled, as she read about how well the war was going, despite the fact that the British were coming. Soon, the Empire would be able to return to fighting the rebels and bring them back under Rome’s light, especially Aeteorea.

I am glad to be of service. Rome will be great! The XXVI. will be the best legion in this army, I swear it.
-Senator Palaiologos

***** To Communist High Command*****
*****LOCATION UNKNOWN*****

First United Workers Troops have entered combat zone with German allies, seek to occupy local region and push back Imperialist scum.

Front very changable, relying on capitalist allies to maintain superiority of numbers. Request French and Brittanic reinforcements and supplies. 2 Legions of sizeable threat in area.

Awaiting orders
********** UWW 1st Army ********
*****Salzburg*****

Theodora heard a loud noise outside. “What the…” she muttered, walking over to the window. “Did somebody drop something or…”

Then she looked up, and her face paled.

Three red airships soared gracefully through the clouds over Constantinople, bearing the insignia of the communist rebels on their sides. As she watched, they rained down bombs all across the city, leaving flaming wreckage behind in their path. Entire blocks were flattened as the airships charged forward.

They were headed towards the Senate.

“Everybody, get down!” she shouted, backing away from the window.

A bomb detonated right outside the window, and the last thing she saw before she blacked out was the glass in front of her shattering as the shock wave struck it.

Senator Raphael Favero sat in stunned silence as the window blew in. He looked down at the piece of toast in his hand and scowled. “Now there’s glass in my toast. Curse you rebel scum!”

Emperor Michael picked himself off the ground, where he had dropped at Senator Doukas’ warning. Before he was fully to his feet, members of the Scholai Palatinae were at his side. They quickly escorted him from the room and to the bunkers and tunnels provided for the Imperial Family. Other members of the guard and the palace medical staff were heading into the room to assist the senators.

Talbot Palaiologos heard loud noises outside the Senate building. A woman named Theodora shouted something but he didn’t hear. He hurried to a window to see a bomb heading straight towards him…

Talbot Palaiologos, the last Palaiologos of the pure Palaiologoi family, is dead.

The Habsburg- Palaiologoi, the Latakis- Palaiologoi, and the Valois- Palaiologoi all now vie to succeed to the prestigious crown of the Palaiologoi family.

Theodora slowly regained consciousness, finding Dalassenos shaking her head.

“THEODORA!” he shouted.

She quickly pushed him away. “Can you at least show a married woman some respect?” she snapped. “You’re married too!”

“Sorry, Theodora,” said the general.

She looked around her. The whole place was in ruins. The roof was blasted clean off, letting in sunlight. The outer walls had also collapsed, allowing her a view of the chaos that was engulfing downtown Constantinople.

“How did the rebel scum get here without knowing?!” she demanded.

“Somebody just lost their job,” muttered Dalassenos, “Anyways, the Emperor is safe. Martial law has been instituted across the city. We need to get you and the other senators to the bunkers under the Palace while the legions get in position to shoot down those airships.”

“It’s no use,” said Theodora, “They’re too high up to shoot.”

“We’ll find a way, Theodora, we always do,” Ioannes assured her, “We’re Romans. We always survive, even in the darkest of times.”

She staggered to her feet, and pain flared in her right leg. She cursed in a very unladylike fashion.

“Do you need help?” asked Ioannes.

“Your gentlemanly nature is not required, thank you very much. I can walk just fine.” Theodora shot back.

“You remind me a lot of your father,” said Ioannes, “We were good friends, you know.”

“I know, I’ve heard.”

Dalassenos walked over to Palaiologos’s limp body, lying by one of the shattered windows. He felt for a pulse. “He’s dead.”

“A good man he was too,” said Theodora, “He had no children. The rest of the family’s going to tear itself apart over his titles.”

Another bomb detonated close to the room, not close enough to cause any damage but close enough to almost knock her off her feet. Rushing outside, she watched as one of the airships loomed menacingly and directly over the Senate building while the others remained aloft in the clouds.

“You said they were all in the clouds!” she shouted.

“Yeah, they knocked out our antiaircraft in the first wave, we’re still trying to get the defenses back online!” Ioannes shouted back.

She observed the airship and noticed that rather than bomb bays or aircraft runways, there were cabins. This wasn’t a bomber or carrier…

Ioannes noticed it too. He turned to his men. “Transporter!”

Hatches in the bottom of the airship flew open, and ropes dangled down, followed by men in black suits. Ioannes’s soldiers raised their weapons, only to be shot down by machine gun fire from the airship.

Ioannes turned to Theodora and the other senators. “Run!”

They ran as the rebel commandos reached the ground and started shooting at them. Anybody who couldn’t run was quickly tied up by the commandos and taken away.

((Paris))

“Sir, Reds 1 to 3 have engaged the enemy. They report that much of the capital has been incapacitated and occupied by our own forces.”

“Excellent. How far are we from total victory?”

“All strategic and morale-boosting locations have been occupied, save for the Senate and the Palace. The Emperor is in hiding, but we can flush him out like the rat he is with our new mustard gas. Then we shall proclaim the birth of the People’s Union of Rome!”

“Excellent. What of the senators?”

“They shall be dealt with accordingly.”

“Bring the heads of Doukas and Favero before me. They are the most dangerous of the senators and must be put down like the reactionary scum they are!”

“Yes, sir.”

((Onboard one of the airships))

“They’re storming the Senate,” said Leonard, “Shouldn’t we stop them?”

“How can we get down there without alerting the crew of this ship to our presence or falling to our deaths?” hissed Jonathan. “We must stay where we are and get ready to detonate our explosives at the right time.”

“Silence,” said Laskaris, “Captain Picardie is down on that commando ship. He’ll take care of things. He’ll make it so.”

Nestorius and Hairini weren’t close enough to be overtly affected by the shock wave, but they did feel its heat a little. The two grabbed one another tightly and ducked under a table, befuddled. Soon, they watched as the roof was blasted off, giving them a view of what was going on.

“Nestor, what’s going on?!” she asked him, but he had no response. He looked at the airships, breathing heavily. He was reminded of when the cult attacked Constantinople – he was around 5 at the time, watching chaos erupt from a secluded rooftop, when he was supposed to visit his father for the week. He would have never imagined himself to live to see the city attacked like this once more. He was filled with unbridled fear.

Hairini slowly put 2 and 2 together. She quickly tried to shake him out of his state, but it was of no use. Hearing Ioannes, she grabbed Nestorius by the hand and the two ran like hell, Nestorius watching the airships as he was dragged out of there.

The senators ran through the wreckage of the Senate building. Voices and footsteps echoed in the hallways all around them, emanating both from their feet and from the commandos behind them. Theodora looked back and made sure that everybody was accounted for. When she found that some senators were missing, Favero and Nestorius among them, she went back to look for them, only to be greeted with a hail of bullets. Somehow they had been separated from the main group of senators.

“Blast,” she muttered, “Where did they go?”

“We don’t have time for this, Theo,” said Ioannes, “They’re senators. They know how to stay safe.”

“Don’t call me that,” Theodora snapped back, “It’s annoying.”

The general managed a grin. “You haven’t changed much, I repeat.”

They continued running. “We have to find the entrance to the bunker!” repeated Theodora.

((somewhere else))

A group of senators huddled in the corner. They had been surrounded by fully-armed commandos. One had even began to mutter the Lord’s Prayer under his breath.

“Shut up with your superstition!” shouted the lead commando. “Where is your ‘God’ now? He’s not going to save you reactionaries from the will of the proletariat.”

The senator continued chanting, his voice punctuated by fear.

“Foolish reactionary!” The commando pulled out a pistol and shot him in the head, the senator’s blood splattering over the others. “There are no gods, only men!”

He turned towards the other senators. “Now, you will tell me where Favero is so that I may kill him.”

When the senators all shook their heads, he shot another one in the head. “TELL ME!”

One pointed to a nearby closet.

“Finally, I can get my revenge at last…” said the commando, throwing open the closet.

((outside))

Nobody noticed a figure dropping out from the bottom of the airship before it was too late. The guards assigned to watch the ship were hit from behind by an unseen force and collapsed. John-Loukas Picardie picked up the guards’ weapons and rushed silently into the Senate building.

((Paris))

“General Secretary, sir, the commandos are in position.”

“Excellent. Have the Germans delivered the shipment yet?”

“Yes, sir, it is ready to be deployed.”

“Order all units to commence Operation Sewer Rat at once.”

“Yes, General Secretary, sir.”

“And one more thing.”

“Yes?”

“Have Favero and Doukas been found yet?”

“Favero has been found, but Doukas has not.”

“Then your men have failed in their mission. Tell them that my apprentice is on his way. He shall make short work of Doukas and put her in her place.”

“Yes, sir.”

((Theodora))

Theodora walked ahead of the senators and peered around a corner. Spotting some rebel commandos standing around the entrance to the bunker, she motioned to the other senators. Some of them groaned.

“That’s the last entrance,” said Ioannes, “We checked them all, and they had all of them covered?”

“It appears so,” said Theodora.

“Why would they do that?” asked Hairini.

“Good question,” replied Theodora, “Obviously they would not do this just to capture us. They know the Emperor is down there with his family and senior officials.”

“But why aren’t they going down there?” asked Hairini.

“The bunkers are large and heavily defended,” said Ioannes, “I went down there once. They would be repelled immediately. But that brings up the question on why they would be standing at the entrance…”

They watched as another rebel walked up, pushing a cart filled with small metal canisters that had German writing on them.

“Ioannes, you said that the Germans were doing research into chemical weapons, right?” asked Theodora.

“Yeah. Why?”

The rebels, after putting on gas masks, pulled open the hatch to the bunker and dumped in the canisters.

“Run. Now!” she hissed.

The senators took off again as clouds of yellow-green gas emanated from the bunker entrance.

This is not happening, thought Theodora, Why do the Doukai have to be cursed like this?

Gunshots rang out through the deserted corridor, and Ioannes screamed in pain and tumbled to the ground, clutching at the wound in his leg where a bullet had embedded itself deeply in his flesh.

She scanned her surroundings for the shooter while the senators scrambled to hide or pull Ioannes to safety. Her eyes soon found the man responsible.

Wait, were her eyes tricking her?

She squinted at the rebel in front of her, who made no attempt to hide or even claim innocence. She recognized him. She recognized his tall stature, his long black hair and light almost Middle Eastern complexion (from being in the sun too much), his deep blue eyes. His face was the same as she last remembered it, only there was a scar on his left cheek. She recognized the tattered remains of the Imperial uniform he wore, with the imperial eagles torn off and replaced with a hammer and sickle. She recognized the sword strapped to his side, having seen it before.

“Hello, sister,” said Niketas Doukas, “It’s been a while since we last met. Why don’t we have a one-on-one chat to catch up, shall we?”

With the clouds of gas emanating and the sounds of gunshots ringing out, Hairini scrambled as fast as possible, with Nestorius in hand. Dragging the fear struck Senator around proved to be harder than she originally thought. It didn’t help how all this running has left her short of breath and fatigued. Having found a place to hide, she tried once more to get through to Thaddas.

“Nestor, can you hear me?!” she quietly yelled out to him. No response. She tried to think of something, before remembering how he had told her about the time the cult attacked the capital.

“Do you remember what your father did back when the cultists attacked? Did he tell you about it?!” she asked.

“H-h-h-he t-t-told me that he g-g-g-grabbed a sword and fought the cultists b-b-back,” he struggled to tell her, “and h-he helped the o-other senators.”

“Then why can’t we do the same?!” she asked. Nestorius just looked at her sickly. Unlike his father, he wasn’t as skilled in the field of swordsmanship, or any sort of combat.

“I-I’m sorry, Cyrene.”

“Nestor, sometimes you just give me a headache….. augh,” she said, as she felt dizzy. Nestorius held onto her, keeping her steady. The two moved from their place to somewhere safer, as they wondered how everyone back at the pseudo Aeteorean HQ was doing.

—-

Meanwhile, at the Thaddai residence and makeshift HQ of the Aeteorean provisional governorship.

As obvious as it is to state this, everyone there was surprised by the attack. Two bombs hit the residence – one at the entrance, while the other was slightly farther away, but still close enough to have made an impact. Everyone got together for an impromptu meeting. Michail Lykidis stepped forth to start it.

“Now, as you all know, all hell is raining loose on this city! The attack, according to what Kojo here saw through one of the windows, is apparently concentrated at the building where the senators are located. It is pretty obvious that they are after them. But, we must be always ready,” he said, as Onobanjo stepped forth.

“As Nestorius has told us, he had a secret stash of guns and swords hidden in this building, passed down from his father, from his grandfather, and so on. If we see that they are approaching this place specifically, we break them out and start fighting back. We will show them that we aren’t fucking around.”

“But what of Nestorius and Hairini? Are they not at the senator building?” Dhaaniel Kurien asked. Everyone scratched their heads, before coming to an agreeance that they are, in fact, there.

“Well, shit. What do we do then?” Botros Damji yelled out.

“We shall pray for them. Hopefully, our belief in their survival will ensure their….. survival,” Savvas Epimonopoulos said, as he crossed himself before beginning a prayer.

“Oh, like that is going to help,” Sudarto Wanggai lashed out in a frustrated manner.

“Please, let’s not get into such topics now!” Nicolaos Alexidas stepped in.

“Yes, we should figure out what to do. Just sitting here on our asses and arguing won’t help in the long run,” Antiochos Heraklides joined in.

“But what can we do? They are quite a ways away from here and we’d have to deal with the raining bombs,” Stefanos Antecheirinidis asked them all.

Out of nowhere, someone threw a map onto the table nearby and opened it up. It was a map of the city. They looked up and saw that it was Miro Taior, another one of the subordinates.

“Now, if you are all done bickering, we should probably see if these flying ships have some sort of pattern with help of this map.”

Senator Raphael Favero wandered through the hallways of the senate building, all alone and walking with a slight limp. No one had seen him leave the Senate, and in fact he couldn’t even remember leaving the room himself. He couldn’t remember a lot of things. All he could focus on was his strange hunger for toast, and for that he needed to find his toaster. It should be in his quarters, but he couldn’t recall where those were. In fact, where was he? Who was he?

Raphael looked down, spotting a slice of toast in his hand. With wide smile, he raised it to his lips, ready to take a bite. Then he noticed the glass shards in it and dropped his hand down in disgust. This was the fifth time he had repeated the motion, not that he could recall that. Instead he just continued wandering through the halls, oblivious to the trail of blood he was leaving in his wake. He was as equally oblivious to the giant shard of glass sticking out of the back of his head, but he had long ago lost the sense to notice such things.

Eventually he stumbled upon a pair of guards, although in his simple-minded state he did not consider who they were working for. He waddled up to them, holding the piece of toast up before him. They turned to him, their guns pointed at him. He took no notice of the weapons and said, “Toast?”

One of the guard shot at him, the bullet shooting right through the piece of toast and knocking it from Raphael’s hands. The senator let out a gasp. What kind of monster would harm an innocent piece of toast? With unparalleled savagery, Raphael launched himself at the guards, ripping and tearing at flesh with his fingers. The first guard had not expected the attack and fell before the senator. Blood sprayed everywhere as Raphael’s fingernails cut lines across his arms and chest. When his fingernails proved less effective, he started using his teeth. With a feral snarl, he ripped out the man’s throat. The other guard fired a shot at him and then started to run away, but Raphael jumped upon him wrapping his hands around the man’s neck. With a sharp jerk, he snapped the man’s spine. With the guards dead, he let out a loud battle cry. “TOAST!”

Raphael stumbled down the halls, his balance becoming more and more precarious. Eventually he tumbled to the floor, unable to remain upright. He tried to move his legs, but he had lost all feeling down there. The giant hole blown through him by the last guard’s shot had most likely crippled him, but he could not comprehend that, nor even notice the gaping wound in his midsection. How was he going to find any toast without his legs? Undeterred, he started to crawl, dragging himself along the floor with his arms. He was hungry, so hungry. He ended up crawling back the way he had came and came across the piece of toast he had lost. It had a bullet hole through the middle, but he was even more far gone than before and eagerly grabbed at it. This time he did not make notice of the glass shards embedded in the bread. The senator eagerly shoved it in his mouth and swallowed. Having lost the ability to feel pain, he did not notice the glass shards shredding his throat until it was too late. Raphael tried to cough it back up, but just ended up regurgitating blood. Within a few minutes, Senator Raphael Favero had choked to death on his own blood. But in the end, he had gotten his toast, and that was all that mattered.

((Theodora))

Theodora turned to the senators behind her. “Run,” she said.

Without another word, the senators rushed away, down the hallway, though Hairini and Nestorius (how did she think he had fallen behind?) trailed behind. She had to stall long enough for them to get away.

Once they were far away enough, Theodora turned to her brother.

“What have they done to you?” she demanded.

“They showed me the truth,” said Niketas, grinning, “The whole truth. The Empire is rotten and unable to change. It is a relic of the feudal past. It seeks to hold back human progress so that a few men might remain in power forever!”

“No,” said Theodora, “That is not true.”

“It is,” said Niketas, “Think about it. What has the Emperor ever done for you? What have you ever done as a senator? Have you ever wondered why you were the only woman in the Senate? Huh? No? Well, news flash for you, the Emperor wants to keep women where they are, as currency and objects!”

“That is not true!” she screamed. “You’re not my brother!”

“I am you brother,” Niketas replied coolly, “The rebels showed me what true freedom was. Freedom to choose my own destiny. No longer do I have to live in Father’s shadow, serving an absent emperor who only serves to oppress the common people. No longer do I have to fight a war that I don’t gain from. The people of Rome shall decide their own fate!”

“This is not you, Niketas,” said Theodora. “You were the loyal soldier before all of this. You wanted to be a senator. You wanted to serve the Empire!”

“Lies, lies, lies!” replied Niketas. “Why do you serve the Emperor, huh? Why? What has he ever done for you? Those victories in war? The people did it. Your wealth? Hundreds of citizens toiled in the factories to enrich you! Your education? The people! Not the emperor, and not a god in the sky!”

“NO!” screamed Theodora. “Break out of it! You’re not you! You’re in there somewhere, and you can fight the communists!”

“I can’t fight myself anymore than you can fight the inevitable flow of social progress,” said Niketas, “The revolution is inevitable. The proletariat shall depose their oppressors and seize the means of production! The Rebel Alliance shall overthrow the evil Empire! And I shall be their sword!”

“Even if your sister serves the Empire?” asked Theodora.

Niketas glared at her. “You’re not my sister anymore. You’re no better than the pigs who roll around in pools of money, prospering off the sweat and blood of the common people. You don’t deserve to be my sister. You’re reactionary scum, and your purpose in life is to die.”

“You were the chosen one!” shouted Theodora. “It was said that you would destroy the rebels, not join them! Bring balance to the Empire, not leave it in darkness!”

“I HATE YOU!!!” screamed Niketas.

“You were my brother, Niketas,” said Theodora, biting back tears, “I loved you.”

She drew her father’s sword. “I have no choice.”

Niketas threw away his pistol and drew his own sword. “Neither do I.”

The two siblings lunged at each other, blades drawn.

((outside))

The senators, including Hairini and Nestorius, rushed down the hallway as they heard steel strike steel behind them and Theodora shout at Niketas. Ahead of them was an open doorway leading to a street outside. They stepped over the bodies of both rebels and senators, and Hairini recognized Favero’s body lying in a pool of blood.

“Come on, we’re almost there,” said Nestorius.

Two rebels appeared in the doorway, guns raised. It was a trap. Hairini closed her eyes as the rebels advanced towards the senators.

Two gunshots rang out, and there was silence.

She opened her eyes, wondering why she was still alive. She saw a bald middle-aged man standing there, a smoking gun in his hand.

“I am Captain John-Loukas Picardie of the Imperial airship Empress Veronica,” said the man, “I’m here to save all of you.”

((Paris))

“Sir, Operation Sewer Rat has completed. All entrances and exits have been accounted for and taken care of. Enough gas has been pumped into the bunker system to cover each part of it with a lethal amount.”

“Have you confirmed the death of the emperor and his family yet?”

“No, sir. We are still waiting for the gas to clear. But nobody could have possibly survived the attack.”

“An end that the vile reactionaries fully deserve like the rats they are. How about the senators?”

“Favero is dead. We have confirmed that. Palaiologos is also dead. Our champion is handling Doukas as we speak. The other senators will be hunted down soon enough.”

“Good. How goes the occupation of the city?”

“The Hagia Sophia is secured, and the teams there await your orders to demolish it. All bombs are ready to detonate on your command. The Patriarch has been publicly executed. The universities have been secured, and their faculty and students have been fully purged. Everything is ready for the final solution.”

“Excellent. Tell the troops to carry out the final solution.”

((central Constantinople))

Hundreds of citizens, bloodied and beaten, filed silently into the main square of the city. Behind them, explosions boomed as the domes of Hagia Sophia came crashing down. Ahead of them, several dozen rebel soldiers, carrying the flags of the Workers’ Commonwealth and the French Commune, guarded a stage on which more soldiers stood. A general stepped up to the podium in the middle of the stage and began to speak.

“Today is a glorious day. Today, I am honored to be the one declaring a new age for humanity. Rejoice, for your chains have been shattered for good. This is a momentous occasion far greater than the Mending of the superstitious Schism and the restoration of the Empire. Today, you will no longer have to cater to the whims of the reactionaries. Today, we set you free! Free to choose your own fate! No longer will you be kept under the heel of the reactionaries and remain chained to a superstition. Today, I declare the birth of the Union of Rome! Long live the people of Rome! Workers of the world, unite!”

Nestorius and Hairini, after hiding somewhere safe, decided to rejoin the other senators once a opening through the rebels appeared. They rushed down the halls, as they heard the sounds of siblings fighting one another. Ahead of the group was an open doorway leading to a street outside. As they stepped over the bodies of both rebels and senators, Hairini recognized Favero’s body lying in a pool of blood. What did they do to the toast lovin’ man, she thought.

“Come on, we’re almost there,” Nestorius said to her. Out of nowhere, two rebels appeared in the doorway, guns raised. They should’ve realized that such an easy opening was a trap. Hairini closed her eyes as the rebels advanced towards the senators.

Two gunshots rang out, and there was silence. She opened her eyes, wondering why she was still alive. She and the rest of the group saw a bald middle-aged man standing there, a smoking gun in his hand.

“I am Captain John-Loukas Picardie of the Imperial airship Empress Veronica,” said the man, “I’m here to save all of you.”

“Thank god!” Hairini replied, as both she and Nestorius nervously laughed to calm themselves down.

Meanwhile, at the Thaddai residence and makeshift HQ of the Aeteorean provisional governorship.

As the front of the building had collapsed as a result of the bombing, no one could get in or out conventionally. One would have to climb up to the roof, or break a window, or something of the sort. The people inside used this to their advantage, as they carefully watched the rebels passing by the residence, who generally assume it to be empty.

While they couldn’t really see it, they managed to barely hear the general speaking in the center of the capital. Alexidas reported back to the group, who were watching the skies for patterns.

“Jeez, from one terrible government to another,” Wanggai quipped, leading to a few suppressed laughs.

“If what that guy said is true, then we might have ourselves a situation here. Nicolaos, tell us, how is everything on your watch?” Taior asked.

“For now, the rebels have chosen to largely ignore this building, mostly because of the collapsed front. But some of them are giving it a second look, so we might not be completely safe.”

The room was silent, as they all nodded to one another over what had to be done next.

“Break out Nestorius’ weapon stash, JoJo,” Lykidis told him.

Kojo smiled back at him, as he got up and got the stash. Everyone at the building, about 20-25 people, got a sword and a gun, ready to fight back if anyone chooses to try and get in.

((Outside Thaddai residence))

“Play ‘The Internationale’!” ordered the general.

As the communist anthem blared and the Roman hammer and sickle insignia was raised on flagpoles all over the city, a squad of soldiers marched down the street in front of the residence, which was a few blocks away from the square where the Union of Rome had been declared.

“Listen up,” said the general to the men, “The houses in this neighborhood are the residences of prominent capitalists and reactionaries. Your orders are to search each residence. You are to kill any reactionary you encounter with extreme prejudice.”

“Sir, what about the house over there with the collapsed front?” a soldier asked. “I believe I saw armed reactionaries hiding inside.”

“Gas them,” ordered the general, “If we can’t get in, they can’t get out. They will all perish like the cancerous rats they are.”

“Yes, sir.” The soldier motioned to his men, who strapped on large flamethrower-like devices.

The rebels surrounded the Thaddai estate, pointed their weapons at the ruined house, and sprayed the house with clouds of chlorine gas…

With the death of Raphael “Toast Lover” Favero, the title of head of the Favero family passed to his son, Donatello Favero. Born on 21 May 1890 to the rich upper class Favero family in Venezia, Donatello followed in the footsteps of his father and joined the Patrikioi after the Empire’s neighbours showed their aggressive expansionist nature and several national groups rebelled within the Empire. His loyalty to the imperial family is without question. Having received the best education available to a young man, Donatello joined the foreign ministry at the young age of 20. The timing was not perfect, for this coincided with the Time of Troubles. Donatello has thus spent the last year or two running around the Empire trying to negotiate with the rebel states and the Empire’s neighbours. At the moment he is in the now neutral Italy trying to maintain peace until such a time as the Empire can reclaim the region. He has also been trying to negotiate with the locals to gain access to his family’s estate and property, but has met with little success. News of his father’s death has not yet reached him.

Alexidas continued his watch, before noticing the squad of soldiers marching down the street in front of the residence. He listened in closely, but as soon as he heard the words ‘Gas them’, he quickly rushed back to the others. Everyone turned towards him, as he put his finger over his lips before speaking.

“THEY ARE GONNA GAS US! EVERYONE, TO THE BASEMENT!” he quietly yelled out to them. Everyone was visibly distraught by what they had just heard.

They quickly rushed downwards to the rather small basement, hopefully unnoticed. Closing the door, they grabbed anything they could to cover their faces. Unfortunately, all they could find in that basement was wet clothing. Apparently, Nestorius keeps his wet clothes here. Nevertheless, they all grabbed the damp articles and covered their faces.

Henry Palaiologos laughs wickedly. The corrupt, decadent, reactionary Empire cannot even defend its capital nor its leaders! Britannia is fully independent now and yet the Romans were too foolish to realize that they had no chance of victory. Their continued oppression of the proletariat had resulted in this yet they still exploited the workers. He had just received a message from Alan Gael, the just and fair ruler of the Communist nations, that his parent “branch” of the Palaiologos family had died out. For the better. They were scum, not even deserving of the respect of a mean beggar. Some of them were even following the “Third Way” or reactionary ideologies!

((Thaddai estate))

The soldiers stepped back from the house, from which gas was leaking out from the cracks and crevices.

“Sir, the gassing has been completed,” said a rebel, “What are you new orders?”

“There is no way that anybody could have survived that,” said the general, “But just in case, bomb this house until nothing remains, and then send in a team to deal with any bodies.”

“Yes, sir.” The rebel motioned to some other rebels, who raised semaphore flags towards one of the nearest airships and waved them around. The crew on the airship noticed the signal and piloted the craft in the direction of the house, releasing several bombs on top of the house. The entire neighborhood was leveled in an instant, at no cost to the rebels.

“That’ll teach them for bombing the innocent proletariat of Paris,” said the general.

((outside the Senate palace))

“I am Captain John-Loukas Picardie of the Imperial airship Empress Veronica,” said John-Loukas to the senators, “I’m here to save all of you.”

“Thank god!” Hairini replied, as both she and Nestorius nervously laughed to calm themselves down.

There was the click of several rifles from behind him, and he cursed.

“Don’t move, or we will fire,” said the leader of the rebel squad.

“It’s a trap,” John-Loukas muttered, “I hate it when this happens.”

“Yeah, the two guards here were just a trap within a trap for all of you,” said the rebel, “Now come with us. We have some important business to attend to.”

((Paris))

“Are you sure the emperor is dead?”

“I’m very sure, sir! I have a photograph of his body!”

“Really? Because it looks to me like it could be a decoy…”

“Fine, sir, I’ll send men down into the bunkers to investigate!”

At the Thaddai residence and makeshift HQ of the Aeteorean provisional governorship.

The group was nervously waiting in the basement that was slowly becoming uncomfortable, as they accidentally covered their faces with the best countermeasure an ordinary person could have, as chlorine gas was water-soluble. They waited for quite a few minutes, before one of them began peaking through the cracks of the door, to see if anyone has entered to check for bodies…… but then, all they heard was explosions.

Unbeknownst to them, the entire neighborhood was leveled in an instant. While all the relevant documents for the governorship were safe in several vaults, everything else in the residence was completely destroyed…. except for the basement. After the shock of the explosions had passed away, everyone remained quiet for a moment. No one was sure what had just happened. Out of nowhere, Kojo tried to open the door of the basement – he couldn’t. It was blocked by debris, though they wouldn’t know. He slowly turned to the others and looked at them with sickly eyes. They all realized what was going on – they were stuck. Panic ensued. Were they going to just starve down here?!

Outside of the Senate palace

Hairini gasped at the sound of the rifle clicks. They had just been smeckledorfed. Nestorius and Hairini, like the others, complied with the demands of the rebels and followed them.

“Nobody could have possibly survived that,” said the general, “All right, men, let’s move out! We’ve received orders to withdraw to the financial districts and destroy the banks!”

The rebels cheered and brandished their rifles before organizing into straight lines and filing out of the destroyed neighborhood in an orderly fashion.

((Senate building))

The senators, John-Loukas, and Ioannes were led at gunpoint away from the ruins of the Senate building.

“What’re you doing here, my friend John?” said Ioannes. “I haven’t seen you since our days at the War Academy!”

“It’s a long story,” said John-Loukas, “But I really should be asking you that question.”

“Promotion happened,” replied Ioannes, grinning, “And vampires.”

A rebel struck Ioannes’s head with the butt of his rifle. “Shut up, capitalist scum!”

John-Loukas looked off to his left, where he saw smoke rising from above the ruins of houses. “What is burning?” he asked another rebel.

Without facing him, the rebel replied excitedly, “Oh, we’re burning the money in the banks and destroying the stock markets that are at the center of your decadent capitalist society!”

The squad commander glared at him, and the rebel said nothing more for the rest of the trip.

After about half an hour of walking, they emerged in a public square near Hagia Sophia, where hundreds of citizens had gathered nervously, watched by several divisions of rebels.

Hagia Sophia had been destroyed. The beautiful domes that had come to symbolize Constantinople had been destroyed by multiple dynamite detonations. What remained was dynamited before being put to the jackhammer. He watched as rebels sprayed graffiti on the ancient icons and murals of the cathedral before smashing them with sledgehammers and using them to stone the priests and patriarchs that were held captive nearby. He cringed at this blatant display of iconoclasm.

The rebels led them to the middle of the square, where a makeshift stage had been set up. Several men and women in the clothes of clergy, government officials, military leaders, and wealthy business-owners already stood on this stage, each with a rebel pointing a gun to his or her back. John-Loukas could recognize some high-ranking generals (some of whom were his commanding officers), prominent businessmen (like the head of Vanir Industries), a few patriarchs (the Ecumenical Patriarch was already dead, from what he gathered from the rebel chatter), many heads of the major dynatoi families, and even a few members of the imperial family. A motion-picture camera was set up in front of the stage, ready to capture what would soon occur.

It was a public execution.

Many of the other senators realized this too, and their faces paled. A few broke down into tears.

They were led onto the stage and made to face the camera in a straight line. A rebel stepped up to the camera and switched it on, the film reels rolling. A crazy-haired rebel with many medals on his uniform, presumably their leader, stepped between the camera and the stage.

“Good afternoon,” he said to both the camera and the crowd, “I am General Giorgios Tsoukalos, Provisional General Secretary of the Union of Rome. I am honored to be here on behalf of the Rebel Alliance to oversee the final downfall of the evil Empire. Today, you see before you the traitors of the people. These men and women have spent millions to buy luxuries, hold parties, and debate on pointless things while the proletariat, the only people who really matter, suffered and toiled for years to support their decadence. Today, we say no more to their wastefulness. Today, justice has been served. Progress cannot be stopped. The destruction of Hagia Sophia, the symbol of the clergy’s oppression of the proletariat through evil superstitions such as Jesus and God, and the destruction of the banks and the Constantinople Stock Exchange on Theodosios Street and the burning of all currency within, are the events that will usher in the beginning of a new age.”

He motioned to the people onstage. “Today, the people will be freed from their chains, from the evils of capitalism. No longer will you be slaves to your fellow men and women. No longer will you fight in wars to keep the capitalists in power. No longer will your fate be decided by an emperor or a god in the sky. Today, we set you free! Today, you watch as those who oppressed you be humbled and denounced as the traitors and the reactionary scum they are! There is only one punishment for the enemies of modernity–death!”

Nobody cheered or applauded his speech but the rebel soldiers. Tsoukalos did not pay much attention to this, instead turning to his men onstage.

“Soldiers of the Revolution, it is your time!” he shouted.

The rebel behind John-Loukas hit him in the back with the butt of his rifle, and the captain fell to his knees. The other senators, capitalists, generals, and politicians were similarly forced to kneel. The rebels pointed pistols at their heads, and John-Loukas felt the cold steel of a pistol’s barrel on the back of his head. So this was how he died…he thought he would be a hero, but he was a fool in the end.

“Long live the Empire!” shouted Ioannes defiantly.

“Long live the Empire!” shouted the rest of them.

“Long live the Empire!” shouted John-Loukas.

“Long live the Empire!” shouted the crowd.

“Silence!” shouted Tsoukalos. “Long live the proletariat of Rome!”

“Long live the proletariat of Rome!” shouted the rebels.

“Fire!” ordered Tsoukalos.

The rebels began to pull the trigger…

Nestorius looked as pale as ever. He slowly began regretting ever returning to the capital. But Hairini, despite being fatigued and dizzy, was as engaging as ever. She wouldn’t let herself or Nestorius die this easily. She had to find a way to get them out of this.

While Nestorius barely let out a shout, Hairini practically screamed out the words ‘Long live the Empire’ from the top of her lungs. Feeling the cold steel on the back of their heads, Nestorius began sobbing. Hairini called out to him. “Nestor, it is going to be fine! Would she have wanted you to act this way at the darkest hour?” referring to his former lover.

Nestorius looked at her. She was right. She wouldn’t have sobbed as a gun was at her head. She would’ve fought back and died at the shots of many, as a martyr for the Empire. The two had to think of something quick, otherwise their brains would be splattered across the floor.

John-Loukas closed his eyes, hoping that everything would be over soon. As far as he knew, the rebels had won. He had failed. He had stowed away on a rebel airship, languishing in the bomb bay for hours for the purpose of saving the Empire, and he still failed. The Emperor was dead. The Church was destroyed. The economy was shattered. The general staff was about to be killed alongside him, and without them the legions would collapse. He had failed his emperor. He had failed the Empire. He had failed himself.

The last thing he heard was several dozen gunshots ringing out, and then there was silence.

And then the screaming began.

Were his ears hearing something? Was he dead? Was the noise just a relic of the last thing his ears heard? He realized he could still think and feel. The tip of the gun pressed to his head had mysteriously vanished. He realized he still had eyes and opened them.

Before him was a scene of pure chaos. The crowd had scattered, fleeing in all directions like ants from a boot. And the strangest thing was that there were no rebel soldiers in sight to hold them back.

He turned around and found that the rebel executioners had all been killed by gunshot wounds to the head. All of them were still alive with little more than bruises on them. Behind the bodies of the executioners, he saw rebels running away from the square in terror, their guns and equipment dropped on the ground.

He turned back again and watched as uniformed soldiers bearing the Angelos coat of arms and men in pitch black clothes poured into the square. The few rebels that remained hastily raised their rifles and tried to fire, but they could not. John-Loukas heard the sound of metal whirling through the air as throwing knives embedded themselves in the soldiers, who all collapsed without firing a single shot.

Some of the soldiers ran up to them and cut their bindings. As John-Loukas stood up, free again, he saw a taller bearded man approach. He recognized this man, and instantly he recoiled from his “liberators.”

“Markos Angelos,” he hissed, “What are you doing here?”

Then he realized who the men in black were.

“The Cult?!” he screamed. “You allied with the Cult of all people?!”

“Relax,” said Markos, “I’ve come under a truce. The Cult…well, they just came on their own.”

“What do you want?” Ioannes demanded. “Give me one reason I shouldn’t kill you with my bare hands right now!”

“First, you can’t kill me because I have the guns,” said Markos, “And second, I’m your best shot at retaking this city. My troops are veterans of the war in the North, having served the Germans before defecting to me. The Cult…well, you ask them.”

“Do not thank us,” said Ioseph Ignatieff, a Russian man with an eyepatch, “We are only here to destroy the godless communists who threaten to eliminate our enemies for us. I said this the last time I was here, thirty years ago—only we can destroy the Empire! Now we shall leave, and I sure hope we do not meet again thirty years from now.”

And with that, the cultists stealthily vanished back into the shadows.

Markos turned to John-Loukas and Ioannes again. “Um, never mind about the Cult, they have their own agenda. Anyways, my men and I can get the civilians to safety while helping to retake the city.”

“Let me guess,” said Ioannes, “You want the throne in exchange?”

“As much as I want to, no,” said Markos, “I’ve actually decided that becoming emperor is beyond what I’m capable of. I’m not really sure if I would be a good emperor too. So I’ll give up my claims to the throne, if I had any, and if I reconsider, I’ll attack you guys when we’re on more equal footing, as it’s more fair for me that way.”

“How do I know you’re not lying?” said John-Loukas. “There are a lot of generals and politicians right here who would really like to shoot you in the head.”

“You’ll have to trust me,” said Markos, “And you have no other choice. I could just leave you to the rebels again…”

“Fine!” said Ioannes. “As Megas Domestikos of the Imperial Legions, I accept your offer.”

Markos smiled. “We have a deal then.”

Grudgingly, John-Loukas shook his hand. “Fine. But after this, we’re giving you three days to leave this city and go back to wherever you came from. Any longer and we’ll shoot you. Understood, traitor?”

“That’s fine with me.” Markos turned to his troops and barked some orders in German.

The soldiers spread out throughout the square and rushed towards different parts of the city, leaving behind a small detachment to guard the group. It wasn’t long before they heard gunfire ring out in the distance.

Markos clapped his hands once. “Now, let’s get you guys to safety.”

The group set off through the ruins of Constantinople, not knowing where they were heading.

((Paris))

“What do you mean the Cult and Markos Angelos appeared?!”

“Sir, I don’t really know, our men are just saying that their forces are being decimated by strange men in black clothes who never miss with their throwing knives regardless of how impossible the shots are and by soldiers commanded by the pretender Angelos!”

“Do we have enough bombs to destroy the enemy?”

“We do, but they’re so spread out we risk hitting our own men or wasting our shots.”

“Tell the men to withdraw to strategically defensible locations. We must not lose this city.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Hey, did I call you to my office? Who are you? What are you doing? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?! I’m the—the—General Secretary of the Commune of France! Your superstitions are useless against me! Wait, I could be of use to you! What do you mean you guys can predict the future and that we will lose? That’s just—”

While Nestorius struggled to think of something that could save the two, Hairini thought of something, something…. intimate. She knew she would be spared if she spilled it out, but she didn’t know if the same could be said for Nestorius. Along with that, what she could yell out would possibly ruin Nestorius politically. But if that was what was needed to save them, she had to take it. She prepared herself mentally, when all of a sudden, she heard gunshots. Nestorius closed his eyes in response. Hairini kept hers open and watched as the crowd scattered. She turned to look at John-Loukas for an explanation, but she noticed how her executioner was dead.

Soon, the cultists poured in and their bindings were cut. Nestorius looked disheveled, having been saved by the people who he watched destroy the city years ago. Hairini, having been stopped from spilling the beans, laughed nervously in an attempt to calm herself and Nestorius down. “HAHAHAHA!” she laughed.

“W-w-well, you were right about things turning out right,” Nestorius told her. Hairini laughed in response. They didn’t even care about the conversation between John-Loukas and Angelos, and only turned their attention to the two when the latter clapped his hands.

“Now, let’s get you guys to safety.”

Nestorius and Hairini joined the group through the ruins of Constantinople.

—-

Meanwhile, at the former Thaddai residence and makeshift HQ of the Aeteorean provisional governorship’s basement.

Panic continued for a couple of minutes before Miro Taior yelled aloud at them to shut up. Everyone obliged. He coughed for a bit.

“Is this really all we’re going to do? Just panic like a bunch of maniacs?! No! Tell me, who are we?” he asked. Everyone gave their own answer before being cut off.

“We’re Romans! We are not bound by one another by language and ethnicity, we are bound by one another by our common values, customs, morals and ways of life! Whether we are non-Greek scum, or hellenized bastards, or Franco here from Napoli, we are bound by our community! Did the Romans panic when Hannibal arrived in Po Valley? Of course! But did they let it get to them? Of course not! We must show that our Romanitas is just like that of the old Romans! Now, who’s with me?!”

Everyone yelled in response to the speech made by the Aboriginal. “Now, let’s tear down that door!” he yelled out, as he and a couple of others joined in to break the door open. After a couple of minutes, they weakened the door so much that the weight of the rubble caused it to collapse. They moved out of the way as to not get crushed. After the dust had settled, a gap was opened, allowing them to escape.

One by one, they crawled out of the basement and up to the former ground floor of the building. None of them had any personal goods in the estate, having left it back at their respective homes away from the capital. Nestorius’ father, Damianos, had asked in his will for his stuff to be kept in crates. So, the only things destroyed were Nestorius’ own belonging. Once they all got out, they regrouped behind some rubble and formed a plan to team up with anyone fighting back against the rebels.

Kojo fired the first shot against a rebel force, and their combined forces allowed them to wipe out the squad. They quickly rushed into cover. If the squads were so small, it would be easy to pass through and find the others.

The battalion advanced through the deserted streets, the soldiers surrounding the civilians on all sides and ready to fight whatever they ran into. Markos, Ioannes, and John-Loukas led the way. Around them they saw nobody at all. Stores were deserted. Cars, their doors ajar, were abandoned in the middle of the street, left where their drivers had stopped and bailed out. Stalls had been toppled, and the ground was strewn with rotting food and merchandise. It was utter devastation. John-Loukas hadn’t seen anything like this since he was a private on the Empress Veronica during Konstantinos’s Rebellion.

A group of rebels appeared in front of them, disorganized and weary, probably from the constant Cult attacks they had suffered. Markos’s soldiers made quick work of them, picking them off before they could fire a single shot. The group stepped over their dead bodies, which were already beginning to blend in with the devastation of downtown.

“Where are we headed again?” said Ioannes. “I need to know.”

“The waterfront,” said Markos, “I have a ship ready to extract you to Thessaloniki, which I am told has been spared the worst of the fighting. You will board the ship and depart the city, while the soldiers and I will march on Blachernae and take out the rebel headquarters.”

“How do we know you aren’t just going to sit on the throne and proclaim yourself emperor?” demanded John-Loukas.

“Well, if you guys want to go to Blachernae and die with us, then go ahead,” replied Markos, coolly, “Be my guest.”

“We’re going,” said Ioannes, “John-Loukas and I are going to fight. We left some of our people there, and we aren’t going to flee the city while we can still fight.”

“We are Romans,” said John-Loukas, “I remember something that Theodora said: Purple would make a fine burial shroud. We will fight to retake the Queen of Cities like the Romans we are!”

Ioannes glared at John-Loukas. “You never met Senator Doukas.”

“I was referring to the Empress Theodora. You know, Justinianos’ wife?”

“But Senator Doukas did say that at one point…”

“Well, you get the idea!”

Ioannes sighed. “You get the point,” he said to Markos.

Markos raised his eyebrows and turned the civilians. “Anybody else want to go die with us?”

Immediately, the generals, capitalists, and nobles shook their heads. That left only the senators to decide…

The two were conflicted; while Hairini was ready to shake her head with Nestorius, the latter thought about those back at his residence. Once he pointed them out, Hairini became conflicted as well.

Meanwhile, on the streets.

The gang was busy sneaking down the streets. With guns, swords, and excellent positioning, they were able to beat out every small squad in their way. Soon, they weaseled their way through and saw a group out in the distance. Unsure if they were friend or foe, they approached them slowly with weapons drawn.

Nestorius notices a group approaching them.

Ioannes heard the sound of gunfire and scraping metal not too far away. It was really close. He snapped around in the direction of the noise and spotted an armed group approaching them.

“Heads up, we’ve got company!” Ioannes shouted.

Markos and his men spun around and aimed at the newcomers. They would have fired if not for Nestorius screaming “Wait!”

As they approached, Ioannes noticed that the newcomers weren’t rebels. They didn’t wear rebel uniforms, and their guns were of Imperial design, not German or rebel. Some of them weren’t even European, looking instead like Maori.

“Hold your fire!” ordered Ioannes.

“Are you crazy?!” Markos replied. “We ran into the Cult back there! These men could be dangerous!”

“No,” said Nestorius, “They’re with me.”

The newcomers arrived and greeted the group (aside from Markos and his men) with cheers. Ioannes was relieved that they weren’t the only group fighting against the rebels.

The group introduced themselves; Michail Lykidis, Stefanos Antecheirinidis, Antiochos Heraklides, Nicolaos Alexidas, and Savvas Epimonopoulos introduced themselves first, the first of the two pointing out how all 5 of them were descended from medieval South Slavic dynasties, with the other three just groaning at them. Kojo Onobanjo, from South-West Africa, broke up the five and introduced himself next. Sudarto Wanggai, from the island of Papua, Botros Damji, from the Arabian borderlands, and Dhaaniel Kurien, an immigrant from India, shortly followed and introduced themselves as well. Miro Taior, from Australia, followed suit, but was offended when someone from the other group called him a Maori. Franco Lazaratos, the only Neapolitan who joined the Aeteorean governorship, went after Miro. A pair of Berber brothers, an Egyptian female, an Andalusian female, a French female, a Burgundian female, a pair of Welsh sisters, a female immigrant from Ukraine, a female immigrant from Scandinavia, and a male immigrant from the United Tribes of America also introduced themselves. If anything was obvious, it was that people who worked under Nestorius were either educated minorities within the Empire itself or immigrants who spoke the language of the Empire very well, albeit with accents, whilst being sparsely filled with any proper Greeks.

With their safety ensured, Nestorius turned to Markos and Ioannes. “I was worried that something had happened to them. Seems like this is the true power of Romanity,” he said with a cheeky smile.

Hairini spoke up; “Now that we know they are safe, we can assuredly say that we would rather not go die with you.”

“Very blunt, Cyrene. Very blunt,” Nestorius told her.

Ioannes and John-Loukas shook hands with the newcomers, finding that they were mostly minority groups. Looks like Romanitas did pay off. Now these minorities were just as Roman as he was, and together they could not fall.

“So, I assume you guys just want to get out of the city instead of joining us in assaulting Blachernae, right?” Markos asked. “The ship is down by the harbor. My men will escort you there while we go take out the rebels.”

Most of the group nodded, except for Ioannes and John-Loukas.

“Okay then,” said Markos, “Follow my men and pray that all of you make it out in one piece. Farewell, and I hope we don’t meet again like this.”

He barked some orders in German and Hungarian to the soldiers, who formed a ring around the group and advanced down the steer, in the direction of the harbor.

Markos tossed loaded pistols Ioannes and John-Loukas. “There’s only three of us and at least three hundred of them, so we must be careful.”

They rushed away in the opposite direction, towards Blachernae and the rebel hubs.

Meanwhile in Rennes

“Chairperson, glad to say that the seasons and seas have been kind to our people these past few years, plenty of food for all the people plus more to trade with the our neighbours to fund further industrial growth, do we need to continue to re-arm against Imperial attack.”

“No Lt. Malo, sit enjoy this fabulous cider and some crepes, the revolution may well still take the Empire down. There is violence and terrorism around every corner, plus the ongoing great war. Let us rest while we can and build for the coming storm.”

Chairperson of the Brittany Workers Paradise

Julius Marco wiped the sweat of his head. When the siege of Constantinople happened, Julius immediately gathered all the surrounding men in the neighbourhood, gave them rifles and began to help civilians, pick off squads of rebels and every so often check up on what the bloody hell just happened. Right now he was with Gabriel in his house and was checking a map of the Queen of Cities.
“Our group of 20 have 4 wounded, and we’ve so far got a perimeter in the nearby block of houses. We need more men if we are going to hold out. I’ve sent feelers to the nearby neighbourhoods to see if there are men willing to join. We’ve killed 11 squads of 15 men so far, but scouts have detected 7 more on the way.”

Julius banged his fist on the table. “Damn it Gabriel! Were is the army?! Were are the Senators?! I’ve been trying to contact Senator Doukas but he isn’t picking up! If we don’t get those reinforcements soon we are all going to be dead!”

“Im going outside to our squad to help them with the rebels notify me in case of any new developments.”

Julius leaves the room.

As Markos’ men led the group to the harbor, the Aeteorean HQ folks told the others what happened at Nestorius’ residence. Nestorius looked incredibly sickly after hearing what had happened to his place and almost held his hand up to his heart, thinking of everything that was lost in the destruction of the neighborhood. Hairini looked incredibly stressed to hear that they were faced against chlorine gas, but was relieved to hear none of them got seriously injured. The generals, the capitalists, the nobles, the remaining senators looked incredibly impressed by their feats, with one general commenting on how they managed to take down so many rebel squads.

As they went to the harbor, Hairini looked over to the remaining senators. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she felt as though someone was missing.

Julius shot another rebel in the head. The last group was coming, and then Julius noticed a few men coming in his direction with rifles and the Roman crest on their chest. Julius knew these were new recruits.
“Ah, new recruits! Quick grab a rifle.”
The last rebel group came in sight and the loyalists fired upon them.
“Fighting’s a good job mate!” Julius began as he noscoped a rebel.
“Guaranteed you’ll kill an asshole. Because at the end of the day, there’s gonna be someone in the nation who wants to have the Emperor dead. Though I must tell you, my parents do not approve.”

Flashback
“I’m not a mass murderer dad I’m a patriot! The difference is that one is the love of your country and the other is mental sickness!”

Back in the present
” I think his mate saw me.” Gunfire starts from the rebel group “YES YES HE DID”
“Feelings? I’ll tell you who has feelings, Griffins tearing a man apart because he said their feathers were big. Professionals have standards.”
“First, be polite.” Shoots man in a crotch while saying DIE IN HELL!
“Be efficient.” Kills 4 men in 3 seconds
” Have a plan to no scope every one you meet.” No scopes rebel

((Harbor))

The group reached the harbor without further incident. They found a submarine moored at the dock, waiting for them.

“Wait,” said a senator, “Who gave you guys a freaking U-boat?”

“Germany, of course,” said the squad commander, “Don’t worry, it only has enough fuel to get us to Athens. You’ll be safe there.”

He motioned to the sub. “Well, what are you waiting for? Get in and we can get out of here sooner!”

Without another word, the group filed into the sub. A soldier shut the hatch, and the vessel pulled away from the dock, towards the Golden Horn.

((Rebel HQ, Blachernae))

“General Secretary,” said a rebel, “Our scouts have detected a U-Boat attempting to flee the city. It does not fly the German colors, and the Germans claim it was stolen from one of their shipyards a month ago.”

Tsoukalos realized what that meant. “The senators!” he exclaimed. “Angelos might be evacuating them from the city on that submarine! Raise the Great Chain and destroy that sub before it escapes!”

The rebel relayed the General Secretary’s orders to other rebels, who scampered away.

At the Golden Horn, dozens of rebels heaved with all of their might, and slowly a large chain emerged from the waters, putting up a screen below it…

((Somewhere near Julius’s neighborhood))

“So, uh, Markos,” began Ioannes, “What have you been up to since you were last here?”

“Not much,” replied Markos, “Raised my family–yes, I do have a family–in our simple house in Germany, studying theology and military tactics, hoping that I don’t have to come back here at some point. Pretty boring stuff, I’d say. I just wanted to get away from all of the court politics and military hierarchy. Can you imagine what it is like being Konstantinos’s second-in-command? Always having someone to overshadow you, boss you around, claim all of the credit, and I get blamed for everything because with his death I am suddenly the leader of his movement. Even when I never claimed the throne for myself! Yes, you guys invented that. I don’t blame you. I mean, I did sit on the throne and call myself a saint.”

“Heads up,” said John-Loukas, “We’ve got company. Rebels up ahead. They appear to be fighting another group of what appear to be armed civilians. One such civilian seems to be wearing senatorial robes.”

“Then what are we waiting for?” Ioannes responded. “Let’s kill some rebel scum!”

The three men charged towards the rebel group, guns ready.

((The sub))

“Sir,” said one of Markos’s soldiers, peering through the periscope, “They’re trying to raise the Great Chain!”

Suddenly, the sub shook as artillery shells struck the water nearby.

“Load the torpedoes,” said the commander, “And prepare to dive.”

“Dive, dive! Battle stations!” Alarms blared throughout the sub as men scrambled to their positions, loading torpedoes into launchers, pushing buttons, and pulling levers.

Nestorius almost lost his balance when the sub lurched downward and accelerated forward.

The artillery bombardment continued, and the fear in the crew was almost palpable. The next shot could be a direct hit…

There was a gurgling sound from above, and the soldier retracted the periscope. “Fully submerged, sir.”

“Lock all weapons on the Chain and fire at will,” ordered the commander.

“Firing away.” Several soldiers pressed glowing buttons.

There was a roar as the torpedoes shot out of their launchers, sailing silently towards their target. A few seconds later, they heard a few muted booms as the torpedoes hit their targets. A few seconds after that, they heard metal groaning and tearing as the Chain broke apart, taking its screen with it.

“Direct hit,” said a soldier, “The Chain has been neutralized.”

“Full speed ahead,” ordered the commander.

The sub slid through the wreckage of the formerly Great Chain and left the burning city behind. The sounds of artillery vanished behind them, leaving only the steady hum of the engines.

“Well, we’ve made it,” said the commander, “Athens, here we come!”

The crew and senators clapped in relief. Except for Hairini, who felt like something or someone was missing…

Nestorius was a little nervous about getting into an U-boat. With so many people, it could get claustrophobic. The others reassured him that it would be fine….. until news of the Great Chain being raised came to light.

Everything happened so quickly that Nestorius couldn’t get himself ready for the dive. He almost lost his balance when the sub lurched downward and accelerated forward, but fortunately, Hairini was there to help.

The group grew nervous, as the tension rose. The sounds of booms in the water didn’t really help. But then, news arrived that the Chain was neutralized. With the sub sliding through, the commander revealed that they had made it. Everyone clapped in relief, but Hairini couldn’t shake the feeling she felt earlier. Looking at the senators once more, she finally realized who was missing.

“Where is Senator Marco!?” she yelled, as everyone looked around themselves to see that he wasn’t here.

Julius shot another rebel as the wounded were carried away. Then he saw what it seemed to be two men in senatorial robes and an army sergeant shooting the rebels with them. Upon closer inspection, the two men were… Senator Doukas and Angelos! “HALT FIRE!” Julius shouted he ran down and greeted the two men. “I’m so glad to see you guys! What has happened since i’m gone and what’s the current situation.”

Rumors are, the Palaiologoi family have been engaged in a civil war. The Valois- Palaiologoi cadet branch has been nearly exterminated.

Ioannes recognized Senator Marco and shook his hands. “The rebel scum have attacked Constantinople, sent the Emperor into hiding and possibly killed him, and set up a communist regime. The Scholai Palatinae is nowhere to be found, and Blachernae and much of the city is under rebel control. Senator Doukas is off fighting her brother, who has been brainwashed by the rebels and forced to serve them. The man in the Legion Air Corps uniform is Commander John-Loukas Picardie, who commanded the Empress Veronica when it went down over rebel-occupied territory several weeks ago. The man in the German-style uniform with the Angeloi crest on it is Markos Angelos. You probably know him, but he’s not here to take over the Empire. He’s going to help us retake Blachernae and destroy the rebel headquarters there. You guys might be helpful. Would you care to join us?”

((Thessaloniki))

“TIE 1, you are clear for takeoff,” said the base commander.

Colonel Alexios Komnenos saluted. “God save the Emperor,” he said, “Now let’s go kill some rebel scum!”

He turned his key, and his biplane sputtered to life, followed by the other eleven planes behind him. The squadron taxied down the runway before accelerating and soaring into the skies, heading towards the smoke trails rising up from Constantinople.

((The waters off the coast of Thessaloniki))

The sub had surfaced briefly to give the crew a break. Hairini, Nestorius, and a few other senators were lounging on the deck, relaxing after what they had gone through in the capital.

Just when she was about to doze off, Hairini heard a humming noise in the distance. That was weird, because the crew had not sighted any ships in the immediate vicinity.

She glanced up at the sky and saw twelve small dots flying across the sea in the distance, heading in the opposite direction. Little did she know that the imperial legions were beginning to retake Constantinople…

“It would be my utmost pleasure,” Marco grinned. “MEN! Pack your bags and equipment we’re going with the senators here!”
Julius wrote a little note and stuck on his house’s front door.
Sarah, I’ve met up with General Ioannes and John- Loukas. I’ve let two of my men guard you and a radio. Call me if there’s trouble.
Love, Marco 🙂

“Alright gentlemen,” Julius said. “were to?”

While the sub was surfaced, the Aeteorean group was talking to some of the generals, capitalists, and nobles.

Lykidis and Antecheirinidis were loudly talking about their ambitions to become senators in an attempt to convince them that it was a good idea. They were generally ignored in favor of the minorities. While the nobles that spoke to them weren’t as keen on their beliefs of Romanitas, believing that one’s language and inherited ethnicity were key parts of the modern Roman, the generals and capitalists gave their beliefs a listen. Taior, having studied the ways of ancient Rome, pointed out how the Constitutio Antoniniana, or the Edict of Caracalla, issued in 212, declared all free people in the Roman Empire were to be given theoretical Roman citizenship, so that the emperor could tax more people and to increase the number of men able to serve in the legions, among other reasons. When he asked them to think of the many benefits of having full citizenship applied across the empire, both groups rubbed their chins, thinking of many ways to use the newly emancipated minorities.

Once Taior pointed out how the Romans used citizenship as a tool for Romanization, even the nobles began listening, as they began thinking of using citizenship to Hellenize away the remaining minorities in Roman Europe. While the Aboriginal wasn’t expecting anything to come out of this, he hoped that, at the very least, the idea of full citizenship and possible addression of the discrimination minorities receive in the Roman colonies would be considered. One God, one Emperor, one state; an ideal which he would fight for until the end of time.

Meanwhile, on the deck, Hairini and Nestorius were lounging on the deck, relaxing after the pretty terrifying events that preceded in the capital. The former began to dose off as the latter wondered what was going to happen next. Hairini then heard a humming noise in the distance. As the crew hadn’t informed them of any sighted ships, she thought it was weird. She glanced up at the sky and saw twelve small dots flying across the sea in the distance, heading in the opposite direction. She nudged Nestorius, who looked up as well. They wondered what those dots were….

“Alright gentlemen,” Julius said, “Where to?”

“Like I said, Blachernae.” Markos dramatically pointed with his sword at a map of the city spread out on the ground, particularly at Blachernae Palace. “That’s where the rebels have set up their headquarters. We hit that, kill Tsoukalos and his cronies, decapitate the entire occupation. Then the legions will arrive to finish off the remaining rebels.”

“But what about the…the big airships looming in the sky over us?” Julius pointed at one of the rebel airships.

“We’ll find a way to take them down after we kill Tsoukalos,” explained John-Loukas, “I’ve got operatives up there who will sabotage them.”

“Hey, we better move out, because I’m not sure Theodora can fight for this long, no matter how skilled she is with the sword,” said Ioannes, “She’s probably been fighting her brother for at least a couple hours now.”

“If she can fight for a couple hours, she can fight for a couple more,” replied Markos, “We hit Blachernae first and then the Grand Palace. Take out the headquarters, everybody else loses the will to fight. Take out Niketas first, and we risk them moving to a more secure location or tracking down more important figures.”

“Markos is right,” said John-Loukas, “We have to take out Blachernae first.”

“Well, I sure hope Theodora can keep fighting then…” said Ioannes, limping through the streets.

They set off down the street, their weapons drawn and ready. Ahead of them, red flags bearing the hammer and sickle and Roman eagles fluttered above the smoldering ruins of Blachernae Palace.

((Near Athens))

All was quiet aboard the U-Boat, until it wasn’t. Nestorius was suddenly shaken awake by a loud explosion which rocked the sub. Alarms blared as he heard water rushing in from somewhere else in the sub.

Crewmen rushed from compartment to compartment. “Depth charge!” one shouted. “Dive! Dive! Dive!”

The submarine lurched downwards again, only for another explosion to rock the craft. This one was much closer to Nestorius. Apparently it had also been a direct hit, for the steady hum of the engines suddenly vanished. Several lights suddenly switched off.

“We lost main power!” screamed an engineer. “We’re dead in the water!”

“Take us up to the surface,” ordered the commander, “If we’re going to die, I at least want to see who did it.”

“Empty the ballast tanks!” shouted an engineer.

There was a hissing noise as compressed air flooded into the ballast tanks, pushing out the stored water. Slowly, the submarine began to rise, until there was a roar and shaking as it breached the surface, throwing Nestorius off-balance. How did the rebels get ships in the Mediterranean? he thought. The Empire controlled the seas around Constantinople and Greece.

A crewman observed the surroundings through the periscope. “Sir, those aren’t rebel ships attacking us, it’s the Imperials!”

Not much was happening aboard the U-Boat after they dived under once more. Hairini looked especially tired, at some points even yawning. Nestorius was better, but he wouldn’t mind having a bed right about now. The others were talking about whatever, neither of them cared. As he thought about what to do with the fact that his residence is gone, he was suddenly shaken awake by a loud explosion which rocked the sub.

He looked around himself, as the two heard shouting. The submarine lurched downwards again, only for another explosion to rock the craft. This one was much closer to the two. Apparently it had also been a direct hit, for the steady hum of the engines suddenly vanished. Nestorius and Hairini had to put their hands to their ears because of how loud the explosion was. Several lights suddenly switched off. Neither of them were willing to get out of the room they were in to find out what was going on, but they heard the words “dead in the water”, which caused them to panic slightly.

Abruptly, they heard a hissing noise as compressed air flooded into the ballast tanks, pushing out the stored water. Slowly, the submarine began to rise, until there was a roar and shaking as it breached the surface, throwing Nestorius off-balance. He quickly grabbed onto something to stop himself from falling. “How did the rebels get ships in the Mediterranean? The Empire controlled the seas around Constantinople and Greece!” he thought to himself. The two were very worried over what was happening.

((U-boat))

“Status report,” ordered the commander.

“Sir, all engines have been disabled,” reported an officer, “We have successfully surfaced without incident. The hull’s integrity has not compromised in any way.”

“What about those ships that disabled us?”

The officer trembled. “It’s the Empire, sir. They’ve got us surrounded with a destroyer and several escorts. They haven’t fired on us yet, so I have reason to believe they intend to board us.”

“Very well then,” said the commander, “Attempt to signal a surrender to them. We cannot outfight them. We must hope they show mercy.”

The officer nodded. “I will relay the orders to the crew.”

He rushed away, barking several rapid-fire words in German. The crew snapped to attention, grabbing whatever weapons they could reach and gathering around the bridge.

“Gentlemen,” said the commander, “You have served me well enough. I have nothing more to say. Be prepared for whatever they might throw at us.”

“Yes sir!” the crew shouted together.

They shut all of the entrances leading to the bridge before some of them climbed up the ladder and exited the conning tower.

Nestorius did not hear much of this, because the door was shut tightly, sealing off the senators from the bridge. After several minutes, he heard a small bump as a small boat hit the side of the sub. Another minute later, he heard the machine gun turret open fire and then fall silent again in a few seconds. There was the sound of metal creaking as a door opened, followed by a loud bang as a grenade detonated somewhere on the bridge. Men shouted as gunshots rang out, and then there was silence again.

He watched as the handle of the door slowly twisted, and the door swung open, revealing an Imperial marine, rifle in hand and pointed straight at him. Behind the marine lay the bodies of the dead crew.

“We have killed your rebel captors,” said the marine, more marines appearing behind him, “Please come with us.”

((Near Blachernae))
Markos, Ioannes, John-Loukas, and Julius crouched behind a wall, watching the guards in front of Blachernae Palace.

“Why did you send away my men to attack the other gate?” whispered Julius. “They’re probably going to die!”

“I did what I had to do,” said Markos, “I needed a diversion, and your men would have slowed us down anyways. We need stealth, not overwhelming force.”

“Then why ask me to join you guys?!”

“If you want I can send you to join your men.”

“Never mind.”

Ioannes kept watching until the moment was right. Then he threw a rock far to the right. The guards heard the noise, and one ran off to investigate it. John-Loukas snuck behind the other one and knocked him out with one blow to the head.

“All clear,” said the air captain.

The four of them rushed through the entrance, into the palace.

They found themselves in what was once an ornate hallway which had been desecrated by the rebels. Statues and busts had been smashed and decapitated. Paintings had been slashed and vandalized with communist propaganda. Suits of armor lay on the ground, trampled and mangled. The imperial eagle insignia and family crests had new torn down, shattered, and replaced with the hammer and sickle. It was utter devastation.

“Where is that Tsoukalos?” Julius asked. “I want to strangle him so–”

“Shh,” replied Markos, “We need stealth.”

They rounded the corner and spotted two more rebels guarding a door.

“Okay, just like last time we need to–” Ioannes began.

“JUUUUUULIIIIIIIUUUUUUUUSSSSSS MAAAAAAAARRRRRRRCCCCCOOOOOOO!” Julius screamed as he lunged at the rebels, sword drawn.

The rebels, not prepared for this insane action, were immediately cut down under Julius’s fury.

“Or we could do that,” said John-Loukas, staring at the dead bodies.

“Alright, screw stealth, our cover’s been blown!” Markos shouted. “Kill everybody you find!”

As they heard rebels storming down the hall behind them, they drew their guns and rushed through the door.

As Nestorius was about to tell the marine what was going on, Lykidis stepped in front of him, thanking the marines for saving them from their rebel captors. Once everyone realized what he was trying to do, they joined in as well. Nestorius felt a little stumped, feeling it wasn’t very nice to throw the U-boat operators under the bus. Hairini patted him on the back, telling him that at least he considered doing the right thing.

Everyone on board proceeds to follow the marines.

((Rome, Italy – May 1911))

Senator Donatello Favero patiently waited in the audience hall of the Quirinal Palace in Rome. Giuseppe Lombardi, so-called Prince of Italia, had taken the building as his own when he had rose up against the Empire and established a rebel state in northern Italy. Donatello had been negotiating with his officials for weeks now to ensure the peace held, at least for now. While the Empire surely could not tolerate Italia’s existence in the long run, it had to be tolerated for now as long as the other rebel states continued to resist and the Empire’s neighbours continued their invasion. Italia would be reconquered when the time was right.

After having waited for nearly three hours, an attendant finally opened the door and ushered Donatello in to meet Lombardi. The prince was decked up in ceremonial garments with their bright colours and garish designs. He wore a golden crown shaped to resemble laurels but that was so polished that no one could look directly at it without going blind. Donatello did his best to hide his disgust.

“I apologize for the wait,” Lombardi said. “I’m a very busy man, after all.” Donatello forced a smile, not failing to notice the cup of coffee and recently read newspaper on a nearby end-table.

“Now what is that you require this day?” the prince asked.

“I was hoping to ask something of a personal matter,” Donatello said. He had been so focused on diplomacy the past few weeks that he had neglected family matters. “I wish to inquire as to the current status of my family’s estate outside Venice.”

“If you are hoping to have them returned, I’m afraid that I cannot let a citizen of the Empire reside within our borders without becoming a citizen of Italia.”

Donatello held back a scowl. This pompous buffoon and his cronies had taken everything from his family. Still, he had to be courteous, seeing as he was a diplomat. “I understand, but is the estate at least in good repair? I am concerned it was damaged during the war.”

The prince waved his hand theatrically and said, “Then you have nothing to worry about. All damage was repaired shortly after peace was signed.”

Donatello tilted his head with curiosity. “You repaired my family’s estate? Whatever for?”

Lombardi smiled and tried to pat Donatello on the back, but the senator expertly dodged the false show of affection. “It wouldn’t do for my new September home to be damaged.”

The senator’s eye twitched. “Your September home?”

“Why yes. A distinguished monarch such as I requires proper estates for all times of the year. I find the weather around Venice in September is most lovely, and thus I prefer to spend my time there during that month.” Lombardi gave a toothy grin. “I will admit it is by far one of my finest estates.”

“Your estate?” Donatello’s clenched his fist. At that moment, all thought of diplomatic professionalism went out the window. “You traitorous pig-dog! You deplorable thief! I’ll wring your neck for this!”

Without hesitation, Donatello launched himself at the prince, wrapping his hands around the man’s neck and strangling as hard as he could. The guards in attendance rushed at him and pried him away from the prince, but not before the man went blue in the face. Once free, the prince choked and gasped for breath, while the guards hauled the senator off to the side. Lombardi fixed his ruffled garments and fixed Donatello with a glare. “I will forgive this improper display this once due to the concern for your family’s estate, but I will not let it happen again. Remember your place. Italia is mine now.”

With that, the guards escorted Donatello from the room. The senator could only dream of the day he would get to witness Lombardi’s execution as a traitor and the return of his family’s home.

((Over Constantinople))

“Hey, what’s that over there?” said Laskaris.

The crewmen looked out the small window at several small dots on the horizon, rapidly growing larger.

“Looks like the cavalry’s here,” said Leonard.

The biplanes spread out across the ruined city and engaged the rebel forces, cutting down dozens of enemy soldiers without resistance. Several more of them turned on the airships, strafing the craft with a hail of bullets.

“Uh, we should probably get out of here,” said Jonathan.

But before any of them could as much as move out from their hiding places, a stray bullet struck one of the engines, creating a spark which ignited the airship’s hydrogen reserves. The rebel ship instantly exploded, killing all onboard, with flaming debris hitting the airship next to it and causing it to explode as well. The flaming wreckage of both airships tumbled to the ground, crashing into the middle of Constantinople and leveling several city blocks, killing even more people and starting a fire that rapidly spread throughout the entire city. One landed right on top of Hagia Sophia, while the other landed in the business districts, destroying what remained of the stock exchange.

((Near Athens))

The marines took the senators and the “hostages” onto the imperial destroyer Achilles, where they were put into small holding cells and interrogated as to what the Angelos pretender rebels were doing in Constantinople. Nestorius attempted to argue that the pretenders had saved them, but the soldiers would have none of that and marked him as needing a psychiatric evaluation. None of the other senators backed up his claim. The imperial marines told them upon their debriefing, a little bit later, that they would be relocated to Athens, where Theodora had (preparing for a situation like this) set aside parts of her estates for them to stay in until the capital was secured. After being stripped of all valuable materials and information, the U-boat was sunk.

“At least we can trust these soldiers,” said Hairini, “We’re safe now.”

“I hope so,” replied Nestorius, “I hope so.”

((Blachernae))

“Die already rebel scum!” Markos shot at another rebel.

“But you are a rebel,” replied Ioannes.

“Shut up!” Markos snapped back. “We’re ignoring that for now!”

John-Loukas shot at some other rebels behind them. “Where the blazes is that Tsoukalos!”

“If I know rebels correctly, he’s probably heading for the bunkers!” said Markos.

“Then we need to get to the nearest bunker entrance!” replied Ioannes, charging through the lines of rebels in front of him.

Julius was a whirlwind of fury. He didn’t even bother to reload his gun once he ran out of bullets, instead drawing his sword again and hacking his way through the ranks of the rebels without paying much attention to anything. The rebels were so unprepared for such unorthodox methods that they fell easily.

“Aaaahhhh!” shouted Markos as a bullet punched through his shoulder. The pretender collapsed on the floor as dozens of rebels flooded into the room.

“Angelos!” Ioannes rushed over to his side.

“No!” shouted Markos, “You go get Tsoukalos! I’ll hold them off! Maybe I’ll redeem myself to the Empire this way!”

Ioannes nodded and rushed away.

Behind him, as rebels surrounded Markos, Ioannes heard the pretender scream “For Empire and Emperor!” before he detonated a grenade, killing himself and everybody around him.

On board the Achilles, Nestorius attempted to argue that the pretenders had saved them, as he stated that “[the pretenders] were too proud and haughty to let someone else overthrow the Empire.” The soldiers considered this line of thought to be poppycock, as obviously the pretenders would want to work with the communists to overthrow the Empire, especially as the other senators didn’t share the same line of thought. He was marked him as needing a psychiatric evaluation, leaving him a bit miffed.

“I cannot believe these soldiers! Why would a monarchist pretender work with people who want to establish a communist state?!” he told Hairini.

“Not everyone knows the exact details of ideologies, Nestor. You should know that,” she replied, causing him to reluctantly nod.

“At least we can trust these soldiers. We’re safe now.”

“I hope so. I hope so,” he replied. He wondered how Theodora’s estate looked like, considering her family.

((Blachernae))

Ioannes and John-Loukas ran through a deserted hallway.

“Hey, where’d Julius go?” asked Ioannes.

“Don’t ask me, I thought you were watching him!” replied John-Loukas.

“I thought you were watching him!” said Ioannes.

The air captain sighed. “Oh well, I sure hope he doesn’t get himself killed like Markos.”

They ran on.

((elsewhere in Blachernae))

Markos’s mangled body lay among the bodies of dead rebels strewn all over the floor. The surviving rebels, stepping gingerly around the bodies of their fallen comrades, showed no respect for the fallen soldier, kicking and prodding his body away from them with their boots and bayonets. They surrounded Julius, whose sword had broken sometime during the battle.

“You are coming with us, reactionary scum,” said one rebel, “Don’t try anything, or else I will have to kill you. And I am looking forward to executing another reactionary scum like I did with some senators and servants a couple hours ago…”

((In downtown Constantinople))

The biplanes were in the middle of strafing some more rebel defenses when the enemy planes arrived. A dozen biplanes, all painted read and proudly bearing the hammer and sickle eagle insignia of the Union of Rome, engaged the Imperial aircraft in a dogfight over the city. Bullets and wreckage crashed down all over the city, killing rebels and civilians alike and leveling dozens of city blocks. On the ground, the remains of the Scholai Palatinae gathered outside of the walls of the city, preparing for an assault, while imperial navy destroyers and battleships blasted away at the remains of the rebel airship blocking the Bosphorous, attempting to clear a way for transports to enter the city and deploy marines.

((Athens))

The Achilles docked in Piraeus, and the senators were quickly hurried away to nearby cabs and carriages. The generals were taken to the nearest military headquarters, while the nobles and industrialists paid cabs to drive them away to whatever estates they or their friends owned in the countryside. The priests and patriarchs made their way to the Parthenon.

Hairini, Nestorius, and the other senators stood at the curb as the Achilles pulled out of port, heading back to aid in the liberation of Constantinople. They watched as some cars bearing the Doukas family crest, not the imperial crest but those of Theodora’s family, pulled up in front of them. Servants opened the door for all of the senators. Hairini and Nestorious noticed a young woman dressed in the clothes of nobility inside the car in front of them.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” she said. “We’ve been expecting you. Please, take a seat and we can get this over with quickly.”

Before Nestorius and Hairini could get a word out, Lykidis and Antecheirinidis jumped towards the family. Despite them not being the Imperial branch, impressing them could be their best chance at possibly getting the nomination for the Dalmatian governorship.

“Oh great Doukai, what an honor it is to meet you-” the two began before being pulled back by the others. Onobanjo, having worked with Lykidis the longest in his time with the group, tells him to cut it with this crap. The two begin to argue, as the other hellenized families join in the arguing. Soon, the entirety of the Aeteorean governorship sans Nestorius and Hairini has begun arguing. Nestorius walks to the car with the young woman in it.

“I apologize for this. Those two are a bit…… rambunctious, when it comes to those higher in power. Do you possibly have some place where they can stay while we get this over with?” he asked, as Hairini approached next to him. The two seem ready to take a seat, as long as something is done with the others.

Durakis Habsburg- Palaiologos V has arrived. The Habsburg- Palaiologos branch has triumphed over its opponents and successfully taken the Palaiologos family legacy. Nicaea is under the firm control of Durakis V. It is said that he is a socialist but it is, of yet, unknown what his opinion is of the rebellion.
– Report from the Palaiologos family spokesman

Julius was pretty much screwed at this point. No ammo, broken sword, and surrounded by reactionary F***heads. But one does not simply kill a angry Julius Marco. “You’re coming with us, Imperial Scum!” said one of the rebels.
Then Julius began to laugh. The kind of laugh that sounds absolutely bloody terrifying but you can’t run away. “ehehehehhahaAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA!”
Julius didn’t really care anymore. All he could see was red, and reactionary scum. HE leaped forward and punched the first rebel so hard his hand went through the rebels head. Then the next one had his neck ripped off. The same happened with rest of the rebels. They didn’t stand a chance. Julius was basically a pissed of tank.
“and THAT -pant- is why -pant- You DONT MESS WITH EMPIRE!”
Julius ran off into the hallways to find Ioannes and the others.

Julius Marco STREAMED into the halls.The rebels were cut down, and Julius got a new gun with full ammo. Then he reached the biggest room in the building.
Inside said room was Tsoukalos.
Julius stared at Tsoukalos.
Tsoukalos stared at julius.
“Quack quack, motherf***er.” Julius said. Thus began an epic duel that would be known through the centuries as “SWEET JESUS MARCO IS PISSED.”
Tsoukalos had some advanced training, but Julius had done something quite different. For most of his life he has duelled 2 opponents at 7:00 in the morning every day, and since then has become a master of the sword. He had a gun,but then again, Julius wanted to make Tsoukalos BURN. In and out, fortune swinging, until Tsoukalos got a lucky shot that destabilised Julius, sending him to the ground. “END OF THE LINE!” Tsoukalos screamed. he lunged his sword at Julius’s head, then something completely random happened.
The sword BROKE on contact with Julius’s head.
“WHAT?” tsoukalos shouted.
Then another completely random thing happened.
In front of julius appeared the spirit of JULIUS CAESAR.
“Kill this pathetic excuse of life Marco.”
“with pleasure, my emperor.”
“Please, call me Julius. See you in heaven!”
“eh- ho- wha-” Tsoukalos wasn’t expecting THAT of all things.
*cracks knuckles* “meet TIE Sarah, and TIE Gabriel….”

Durakis V has been overthrown and murdered after he declared that he possessed no allegiance to the Basileus. Kythos Habsburg- Palaiologos replaces him as the Duke of Nicaea. He is rushing to Constantinople with a new brigade and equipment from Greece.

***** To General Hatzianestis, Scholai Palatinae, Thrace *****
DID YOU RECEIVE THE MESSAGE WE DID QUERY
THE REBELS BELIEVE WE WOULD TURN BECAUSE THEY HOLD THE CITY FOR NOW STOP
BLASTED FOOLS STOP
THEY DO NOT UNDERTAND WHAT BINDS TOGETHER THE EMPIRE STOP
THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND LOYALTY STOP
THEIR IDEOLOGY BLINDS THEM TO ANYTHING ELSE STOP
***** General Tzavelas, Expeditionary Army, Üsküdar *****

***** To General Tzavelas, Expeditionary Army, Üsküdar *****
WE ALSO RECEIVED MESSAGE STOP
FOOLS THEY MAY BE BUT THIS WAS A WELL EXECUTED SURPRISE ATTACK STOP
THE GARRISION WAS CAUGHT BE SURPRISE AND REMOVED STOP
QUERY IS THE EMPEROR SECURE STOP
***** General Hatzianestis, Scholai Palatinae, Thrace *****

***** To General Hatzianestis, Scholai Palatinae, Thrace *****
YES HE IS SECURE AND SAFE STOP
WE HAVE SENT OUR EXPERIMENTAL FIGHTERS TO DRIVE OFF THE AIRSHIPS STOP
DESTROYED ONE STOP NOW FIGHTING ENEMY FIGHTERS STOP
REPORT LOCAL FORCES ENGAGING REBELS ON GROUND STOP
***** General Tzavelas, Expeditionary Army, Üsküdar *****

***** To General Tzavelas, Expeditionary Army, Üsküdar *****
SENDING MODIFIED ARTILLERY TO DESTROY REMAINING AIRSHIPS STOP
IF POSSIBLE ORDER FIGHTERS TO DRIVE THEM OVER THE HORN STOP
HOW WERE FIGHTER MUNITIONS ABLE TO DESTROY AN AIRSHIP QUERY
***** General Hatzianestis, Scholai Palatinae, Thrace *****

***** To General Hatzianestis, Scholai Palatinae, Thrace *****
LUCKY HIT ON ENGINE CAUSED EXPLOSION STOP
CREATED LARGE LEAK THEN IGNITED IT STOP
PLAN FOR GETTING ARTILLERY OVER WALLS QUERY
TOO STRONGLY OCCUPIED FOR LISFTING OVER STOP
DESTRUCTION OF WALLS TOO TIME CONSUMING STOP
***** General Tzavelas, Expeditionary Army, Üsküdar *****

***** To General Tzavelas, Expeditionary Army, Üsküdar *****
NOT GOING OVER WALLS STOP
USING THE RAILWAY TUNNEL UNDERNEATH STOP
ANY WORD ON SENATORS QUERY
***** General Hatzianestis, Scholai Palatinae, Thrace *****

***** To General Hatzianestis, Scholai Palatinae, Thrace *****
THE RAIL TUNNEL WILL BE DEFENDED STOP
IT WILL BE A DEATH TRAP STOP
MOST SENATORS SECURED BY BROWN WATER NAVY STOP
***** General Tzavelas, Expeditionary Army, Üsküdar *****

***** To General Tzavelas, Expeditionary Army, Üsküdar *****
YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES WITH EXPERIMENTAL FORCES STOP
ARMORED TRAIN TO ARRIVE ANY MOMENT STOP
***** General Hatzianestis, Scholai Palatinae, Thrace *****
—–
At the Theodosian walls, a small rebel detachment pointed their machine gun down the rail tunnel passing under the walls. This was the easiest point to defend, so the handful of men did not worry at their isolation. Especially with the small artillery piece on the walls to blast any trains. Only men would have the chance to come through the tunnel, and the machine gun would rip them to shreds.
After being on post a while, they did hear a train coming. The gun on the walls roared, and they cheered despite the temporary deafness. They gathered round the machine gun with spare ammunition, in case a large assault followed. They had only a moment to register the incoming mass before they all died.
—-
On the inside of the walls, an armored train squealed to a halt. A voice rang over the loudspeakers inside.
“Men! Time to detrain! First infantry, clear the walls! Second infantry, secure Blachernae! First artillery, the train will move to give you firing solution on the airships. Third infantry, you’ll secure the Great Palace. Stay on the train until it stops, that’ll be faster than running! Everyone else, drop four squads every block and begin clearing the city of rebels!”

((Tsoukalos))

“Sir,” said a rebel, “The reactionaries have breached the outer defenses and routed our forces. They outnumber us by a significant margin. What are your orders?”

“We cannot hold the city forever,” replied Tsoukalos, “But if we cannot keep this city, we will deny it to them. Burn everything. Slaughter everyone of importance. Make sure that they will be reeling for years to come.”

The rebel nodded and relayed the order to the other divisions. All over the city, those rebels not engaging the Scholai Palatinae prepared their rifles, flamethrowers, and gas canisters. When the legions fought their way into the downtown, aided by marines who had landed from the ships in the harbor district, thy found nothing but a charred hulk of a city. 75% of everyone with more than a basic secondary school education was dead, their bodies mutilated and strung up on lights and ramparts. 90% of the clergy were dead, including every patriarch still in the city and the Ecumenical Patriarch. 95% of all government employees, bureaucrats, politicians, and nobles were dead. 80% of all books and works of art were burned; another 10% were carried off as loot. As the rebels retreated or were cut down, they left behind empty wastelands in what was once the heart of the Empire.

Tsoukalos turned around and saw Julius Marco there, gun in hand….

((After the duel))

“Kill this pathetic excuse of life, Marco,” said who appeared to be Julius Caesar.

“With pleasure, my emperor,” said Julius.

Julius’s eyes cleared up, and he realized that the “spirit” was actually the Emperor Michael, holding a sword.

“Wait!” Tsoukalos shouted as both men raised their swords.

“Why should I hold off from killing you, communist scum?” Julius taunted.

“Because you are a communist sleeper agent, tasked with killing the Emperor.”

Julius looked confused. “I don’t believe that.”

He and the Emperor brutally took down the rebel leader.

((Constantinople))

Much of the former Queen of Cities was now in ruins or up in flames as the Scholai Palatinae assaulted the rebels entrenched inside. With every battle the rebels were driven back, but not before immense casualties had been inflicted on both the legions and the city itself. Bombs hidden in every other building and street claimed dozens of lives, killing soldiers and civilians indiscriminately. Mass deployment of chemical weapons left entire districts and neighborhoods utterly empty. Rebels frequently held civilians hostage as human shields and gassed those they left behind. Museums were demolished with soldiers, civilians, and even fellow rebels still inside. Churches and schools suffered a similar fate. Plumes of smoke rose from the dozens of bonfires where rebels threw priceless books and paintings to the roaring flames before destroying the empty libraries. Blueprints and research notes were raided and looted by the rebels to be brought back to France; the rest were burned. As the legions advanced and cut off the rebels from their supplies, the communists grew more desperate. They began shooting any civilians they encountered. Bodies of men, women, and children of all ages and walks of life were strung up on the streetlights.

Finally, the legions pushed into the city center, surrounding what remained of the rebel armies in the ruins of Hagia Sophia. While the majority of the rebels immediately threw down their weapons and surrendered to the imperial forces, their commander had other ideas and detonated a series of hidden land mines under the square, killing every rebel and many of the soldiers. Many more were wounded.

The Athenian Lancers were largely unharmed by this last act of defiance. Their commander, Colonel Kyrillos Melissenos, barked some orders at his men, who rushed over to where the red flag of the Union of Rome fluttered in the middle of the square. They pulled down the rebel flag and hoisted up the imperial eagle insignia as Melissenos saluted for the cameras. He hoped this would make for a great propaganda photo.

Meanwhile, Major Petros Laskaris inspected the nearby wreckage of one of the rebel airships. He noticed something that seemed out of place and moved in closer to take a look. Upon further inspection he saw that it was an arm, which though significantly burned was still clothed in an imperial uniform that stood out from the red uniforms of the rebels. He dug out the body the arm was connected to and inspected the name printed on the uniform:

“THEODOROS LASKARIS.”

“My god,” he muttered, making the sign of the cross. He stared into the empty eyes of his brother, whom he had last seen boarding the Empress Veronica for the raid into France several months ago. “No, this is not happening!”

He fell to his knees, overwhelmed by what he saw. The city he grew up in was destroyed. His brother, who had likely been captured by the communists, had been killed with them. He had lost too much. Tears streamed out of his eyes. “WHHYYYYYY?!!!!” he screamed skyward. “WHY?!”

One cameraman noticed Laskaris and repositioned his camera. He captured one photograph of the major on his knees, his back facing the camera, his dead brother in his arms, the devastation of Constantinople surrounding him. When the photo was developed and published in all major newspapers weeks later with the caption “Lest we forget,” it would quickly become the most recognized symbol of the war. It would anger a people divided by ideology, nationality, and class. It would wake them up to the greater threat that was tearing the Empire apart. It would unite them in their anger and their rage and their suffering into one people, one nation. No longer would they consider themselves Greeks, Hispanians, Italians, or French. They were all Romans. And they would fight against anything that threatened their Empire.

((Blachernae))

Ioannes kicked down a door and raised his pistol. “Tsoukalos! I know you’re in here!” he shouted. “Prepare to–oh.”

Tsoukalos lay facedown on the floor in a pool of blood. His body was horribly mangled and torn up. Standing over him was Julius…and the Emperor.

“Don’t look at Us,” said the Emperor, “He did most of the work.”

“Um…” said John-Loukas. “Eh…well done, Julius. You’ve killed the leader of the rebels. And we’ve handled everybody else in the palace.”

“Your Majesty, how did you escape the gas attack on your bunker?” said Ioannes. “I thought they got every entrance and exit covered.”

“There was a secret entrance that only We and a few select others know about,” said the Emperor, “We escaped through there, and We decided to come back and help defeat the rebel scum. The legions have entered the city. The rebels are in full retreat. It is only a matter of time before Constantinople is fully liberated.”

“That’s good to hear,” said Julius.

“Hey, what about Theodora?” asked Ioannes. “What happened to her?”

“That, We do not know…” said the Emperor.

Suddenly, another door was kicked down, and Theodora stormed into the room, dragging an unconscious Niketas Doukas behind her. Her robes were bloody and torn, and her hair was wild and messy. Her right hand clutched a bloody sword tightly. Her eyes were still blazing with fire.

“Greetings, Your Majesty,” she said, bowing as well as she could with one hand dragging Niketas and the other one holding a sword, “I have apprehended my brother, who was brainwashed by the rebels. He was a worthy opponent, but I ultimately defeated him.”

She dropped Niketas on the floor. “He is not seriously wounded aside from the hit to the head I inflicted on him, but he will take a while to recover, not counting the time it takes for him to overcome the rebel brainwashing. Are you in need of any assistance?”

((Athens))

Hairini, Nestorius, and the other senators stepped inside Theodora’s moderate-sized mansion, which was decorated with some paintings and ancient Hellenic statues. The cleanliness and order of the estate contrasted dramatically with the destruction and the chaos of Constantinople. Hairini did not believe she was seeing what she was seeing for a moment. After all she had gone through…did she really deserve to be here while thousands of innocent civilians were butchered by the rebels?

Nestorius noticed Hairini’s discomfort. “It’s okay,” he said, taking her hand, “I feel the same way.”

“You don’t understand!” she said, recoiling from Nestorius’s touch. “Why did they all have to die? Why didn’t we do more to help? Why did we flee like cowards?!”

“Hairini, we did what we had to do,” replied Nestorius, “It’s over now.”

“Yes, it’s over, and thousands are dead, and we’re standing in this huge empty mansion like we don’t give a frak about them!” she screamed, tears flying from her eyes.

“Calm down,” said Nestorius, “Let’s take a walk.”

They exited the house and walked through the small garden and park in the back. The sun’s gentle light beat down on them. Birds chirped in the trees. Bees buzzed through the air, fluttering from flower to flower. The top of the Acropolis and the Parthenon on it loomed overhead, basking half of the garden in shadow. It was a very calming sight.

“Theodora’s sister-in-law said that this was all planted and grown by Theodora’s father,” said Nestorius, “Beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it is,” replied Hairini, “But how will this make up for what happened back there?”

“It won’t,” said Nestorius, “But it’ll help you cope with it and overcome it.”

She nodded. “I hope they’re okay.”

A senator rushed out of the building. “Senator Nestorius!” he shouted. “We’ve got a message from the capital!”

“What does it say?” asked Hairini, suddenly interested.

“The rebels have been defeated! The city’s been saved!”

((Rebel-occupied Italia))

Lombardi sipped some fine Italian wine as he sat in a chair in the former Favero estate. He had made many significant upgrades to the estate since acquiring it a while, and he considered it one of his best moves as the Prince of Italia (his coronation as King of Italy would be in a month). As the old estate had been ruined by the heavy fighting between the imperials and his Lombard Liberation Legion during the liberation of Venice, he had the most damaged parts (about 70% of the entire estate) torn down and replaced with new buildings, each built according to his own designs. He fashioned himself as a successor to the great artists of Renaissance Italy, such as da Vinci and Michaelangelo. Statues of himself as the perfect Italian man were put up everywhere, and paintings of his face were hung in every room. Phrases in Lombard and Italian, taken from Italian nationalist sources and from quotes his assistants had collected over his time as Prince of Italy, were engraved in all doorways. The flags of the Kingdom of Italy, which bore his family’s crest in addition to the red-white-green tricolor of Italy, fluttered in the wind over the estate.

“Your Majesty,” said a servant, “You have a visitor.”

“If it is that Donatello, remind him that trespassing on my vacation home is punishable by death,” replied Lombardi, without turning around.

“It’s not him, sir, it’s one of your men from the Ministry of Intelligence.”

Lombardi put down his wine. “What does he want?”

“He’s brought news of the communist attack on Constantinople. The Empire has recovered the city, but it’s been severely crippled in the process. He wishes that we issue a declaration of war while they are still weak to drive them out of all Italy and Illyricum for good and to expand our glorious Kingdom.”

“Send him in.”

((Paris – Workers’ Commonwealth HQ))

“So, it appears that the attack on Constantinople was a failure.”

“I do not believe so.”

“What do you mean?”

“Yes, it is a tactical defeat. Our men have been destroyed and driven out of the city. But it is a very costly victory for the reactionaries, a Pyrrhic one. They have lost their most important city. They have lost many of their bureaucrats, their politicians, their generals, their precious capitalists, their citizens, and their educators and scientists. We have dealt a very severe blow right at the heart of the Empire. The psychological impact on them is manyfold. Their citizens will ask many questions. First, how? How did the ‘rebel scum’ get the manpower and the capabilities to not only strike the capital, but also inflict severe damage on it? Next, why? Why were we so successful? Then, who? Who is responsible for this incident? Finally, what? What should be done? I would think that even though the Empire has retaken its capital, its legitimacy and strength have been greatly reduced. Its citizens want answers to why their government has betrayed them today. I daresay that we might have started a revolution in the Empire. If the government we imposed on them didn’t work out, maybe they should create their own…”

“Interesting words, sir. Any new orders?”

“We must redouble our efforts to fight the Empire conventionally, on our terms, in our own territory. They will be reeling from the damage to Constantinople and to the people for years to come, and we must take advantage of that. Tell the troops to begin another offensive against the imperials at once.”

“Yes, sir.”

((Somewhere in Central Asia))

The screams were growing louder and louder, despite the fact that she had covered her ears tightly. She saw flashes of light in front of her. Explosions. People running. Buildings falling apart. Things going up in flames. Horrible machines on the ground and at sea and in the air, shooting and firing and dropping death from all directions. Governments falling, emperors and monarchs deposed, red banners rising and falling, chaos and violence engulfing the world…

Kira woke up in her bed, suddenly startled by the silence and darkness of her room at night. The dreams were getting more frequent recently, interfering with her sleep. Luckily they didn’t interfere with her ability yet…

The Cult was making more demands of her. Ignatiev had convinced the High Priesthood that she was the most accurate dreamer in the entire Cult, shoving more responsibility upon her. She knew that the High Priesthood was concerned by what she saw. They wanted to make sure that their actions were leading to the ultimate goal, to the satisfaction of Chernobog by global war. So far He was probably satisfied.

She wasn’t really that religious, let alone a devout Cultist. She had been taken from her family at a young age and forced into this lifestyle when her abilities manifested. She hardly remembered her parents either. Sometimes she wished that she could live a free life, not restrained by the hierarchy and bureaucracy of the Cult. But until the war calmed down, at least in Persia and Mesopotamia so that she could get across the borders into the Empire, she could not escape. And Ignatiev was watching her. He would not let his most prized dreamer escape so easily…

Kira rolled over and went back to sleep. Again the visions came back. Strangely, these visions were not as violent as the previous ones. She saw a man saluting as the imperial eagle flag was raised in a ruined city square. She saw an imperial soldier on his knees, grieving as he carried his brother’s body in his arms. She saw the emperor of the Romans standing over a body lying in a pool of blood, flanked by three men dressed in senatorial robes and military uniforms. She saw a woman in senatorial robes standing, a sword in her hand, another unconscious man lying before her. She saw a group of senators sitting in an empty mansion, waiting around for news. She saw planes and ships soaring through the clouds and steaming through the seas, heading towards the capital as armies marched over land. She saw Constantinople in all of its glory from the air. The fires were being put out already, and the rebel banners were being torn down. How she could interpret all of these images was beyond her; it just felt natural.

As the images faded away and Kira drifted off to a more peaceful sleep, one thought lingered in her conscious mind. She instinctively formed words out of it, eight words that stubbornly refused to go away despite her attempts to go to sleep. Eight words that would chill her to the core:

“This is not the end. Only the beginning.”

Hearing Nestorius’ request, the Doukai noble quickly called someone to lead his subordinates to a hotel. Lykidis and Antecheirinidis demanded to know where they were being taken, at which point everyone else demanded someone gag the two. With the others dealt with, Nestorius and Hairini entered the car. During the drive to the mansion, they would come to find out that the noble was Theodora’s sister-in-law. Nestorius began asking a few questions about the mansion, while Hairini looked out the car window, feeling just a tad discomforted. Whether it was because of the events that have happened, or because of something else, even she wasn’t so sure.

Soon, they arrived at Theodora’s mansion. A moderately-sized place, stepping inside along with the other senators, they saw some decor consisting of some paintings and ancient Hellenic statues. The entire estate seemed like such a stark contrast to the remains of Constantinople. Hairini’s discomfort continued, as they walked through the halls of the mansion. While she was at awe at everything she was seeing, she wondered if she even had the right to be here while chaos continued in the capital. Nestorius soon caught on.

“It’s okay,” he said, as he attempted to take her hand, “I feel the same way.”

“You don’t understand!” she said, recoiling away from Nestorius. “Why did they all have to die? Why didn’t we do more to help? Why did we flee like cowards?!”

“Hairini, we did what we had to do,” replied Nestorius, “It’s over now.”

“Yes, it’s over, and thousands are dead, and we’re standing in this huge empty mansion like we don’t give a pōkokohua about them!” she screamed, fighting back tears from her eyes while doing so. Nestorius looked distressed. He hadn’t seen such emotions from Hairini before.

“Please calm down, Cyrene,” said Nestorius in a calmer tone, “Here, let’s take a walk.”

They exited the house and walked through the small garden and park in the back. The sun’s gentle light beat down on them. Birds chirped in the trees. Bees buzzed through the air, fluttering from flower to flower. The top of the Acropolis and the Parthenon on it loomed overhead, basking half of the garden in shadow. It was a very calming sight.

“When we were driving here, Theodora’s sister-in-law told me that this was all planted and grown by Theodora’s father,” said Nestorius, “Beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it is,” replied Hairini, “But how will this make up for what happened back there, Nestor?”

“It won’t,” said Nestorius, “Nothing can make up for what happened, but this will help you cope with it and overcome it.”

She nodded. “I hope they’re okay,” to which Nestorius replied with his own nod.

Suddenly, a senator rushed out of the building. “Senator Nestorius!” he shouted. “We’ve got a message from the capital!”

“What does it say?” asked Hairini, suddenly interested.

“The rebels have been defeated! The city’s been saved!”

The two jumped in shock. It only felt like they were just there, chaos brewing, and it was already over. Hairini covered her mouth, shedding tears of joy. Nestorius wrapped his arms around her, and attempted not to cry himself. He failed. After a minute or so of crying, they asked the senator to lead them to the others.


In the darkness of night, a ship slowly rocked as it floated in the Golden Horn. Michael Doukas, seventh Emperor of that name, stood on the deck and looked over the Queen of Cities. The only light was from fires that hadn’t yet been extinguished and smoldering embers. The stars above were masked by the smoke rising from the city. Tomorrow would begin the work of reconstruction, but for tonight the Emperor mourned for his people, for the city, for the Empire, and that his reign had been one of destruction.

——

“No, Prince, it is absolute folly to resume war against the Empire. True, you could break their lines in Pannonia. But they would never forgive that breach of a truce. They would move their legions from Iberia to Naples to destroy you.”

“And what would you gain? Campagna? Puglia? Slices of Pannonia? All filled with Greek speakers! Already most of your subjects are Greeks, more would just weaken you. You must take this chance to forge an Italian identity, secure your position. Form a nation, not just a state.”

“Yes, the communists have weakened the Empire. But not fatally. And do you think they would be friendly to us? Did you not hear what they did to the Hagia Sophia? Do you not think they would long to do the same to St. Peter’s Basilica? Especially if the Empire makes peace with them.”

“After that blow? Of course the Empire will! Not to mention the battle in Klagenfurt. The Empire is desperate to preserve those lines. You don’t think the battering you gave XXXIV. Legion on the peninsula was why the agreed to peace?”

“Really, you do? They were just attempting to recover, to rebuild! You would not have stood a chance against a restored legion.”

“Yes, I know that we are still vulnerable to attack. When they have made peace with the communists they can march right into Burgundy. But I have a plan to convince them the agree to peace. A plan that might even make them like me.”

“No, I don’t foresee any hope for Flanders-Wallonia. Sure, the Empire will need to send a legion over sea, but they have no forces remaining. Maybe I should conquer the whole of it rather than just the regions with Burgundians.”

“No, you’re right. Just as I advised you, better to form a Burgundian identity. It’ll be easier the fewer non-Burgundians I rule.”

“Yes, goodnight, old friend.”

The Pope replaced his telephone down and prayed aloud, “God, save us from ambitious fools and communists.”

——

The newspapers were full of images of destruction. The Communists had showed their true colors in this sacking. Though their specific claims were often lies. True, they had killed many a scholar. But not as many as they had thought. Many of the rebel forces had assumed anyone wearing glasses must be a scholar. And so random executions had abounded.

Worse for the communists’ image was their focus on killing ‘propagandists’, that is, journalists. Certainly there was no positive report of them afterwards.

The Hagia Spohia had been heavily damaged. But this was hardly the first time it had been damaged, even if this was the worst. But the newspapers wrote of how it could be made safe against earthquakes when rebuilt. To those who remembered the 1894 earthquake, this was a positive thing.

More severe was the damage to housing. The hippodrome soon saw a tent city of refugees. The Imperial family was there daily personally bringing supplies to the refugees. They even slept in the old Imperial box in the hippodrome to show their solidarity with the refugees. Meanwhile, new housing was rapidly being constructed. Some degree of rebuilding had long been necessary, and this was a perfect opportunity to provide the city’s housing with properly bathing facilities, electricity, and much more sturdy construction. The streets were being modernized and public transportation incorporated.

The banks had been destroyed. But the banks had long ago realized the value of keeping extra copies of important records, and better yet, to keep copies in other locations. This was but a temporary hit to the economy.

The museums had been plundered or damaged. “They came for our art,” the people would say sadly. Then they would laugh or snicker. The lack of artistic movements in the Empire during the last century was well known. True, many older works had been lost. But there were plenty more were those came from. New artists saw opportunity in this time.

In fact, most people saw opportunity. Unemployment had long been the most pressing issue in Constantinople. Now there was plenty of work to do. And this was hardly the first time that the capital of the Empire had been sacked. The people had never felt more Roman.

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